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Andrew Lang - The Wednesday 1-2-3

“What should I do?” and the 5 Ds of Bystander Intervention: The Wednesday 1-2-3

Published 25 days ago • 4 min read

Happy Wednesday Reader!

Today's teaching is a bit longer, but I sincerely hope you spend some time with it. I've included a note about why I feel it's so relevant given our political context at the bottom (along with another Community Question for you!)

Here's 1 teaching, 2 questions, and 3 resources to explore this week:


1. Teaching

A few weeks ago, I shared a big-picture framework from Gabes Torres on how we might stay engaged when faced with injustice and oppression.

You can read it at the link above, but in short: Gabes invites us to recognize and digest our world’s (and our own) trauma, prioritize space for rest, and return to collective and direct action. She refers to this process – which is nonlinear and ongoing – as oscillation.

Today, I’d like to share a more in-the-moment framework you can use when you unexpectedly witness injustice right in front of you.

It’s the called the 5 D's of Bystander Intervention.

In my opinion, the 5 D's of Bystander Intervention is one of the most important frameworks we can internalize as part of our inner work. (Because inner work is never isolated work.)

Have you ever witnessed harassment or some form of dehumanizing disrespect and thought, “what should I do?” Perhaps you jump into action or look to others to see what they’re doing; maybe you look around for a way out...or keep looking down at your phone, just hoping the situation will end soon.

Regardless, there's no need for shame or guilt – often, we default toward inaction because we don’t have an embodied practice of anything else yet.

Here are five ways you might act in moments like these:

Distract

Purpose: to interrupt the situation without escalation.

How: introduce a topic to the person experiencing harassment or harm, entirely unrelated to the situation.

Possible phrases to try:

  1. “Excuse me, do I know you from…?”
  2. Accidentally drop something and cause a little scene. “Oops I dropped this! Would you help me pick this up please?”

Delegate

Purpose: to build support and numbers.

How: locate another bystander, name what you see happening, and ask them to help you intervene.

Possible phrases to try:

  1. “I think that person is being harassed. Would you mind coming with me to ask if they are okay?”
  2. Find a person with rank or power in the space. “Excuse me, there is a person I believe might be being harassed. Can you please check in with them?”

Document

Purpose: to record or document the situation.

How: take notes or video a situation as it is taking place. Always ask the person being harassed afterward what they would like you to do with the documentation. (Note: this option has both safety and legal ramifications as it relates to state-by-state recording laws. If nobody is helping the person being harmed, try using another of the 5 D's first.)

Delay

Purpose: to check-in with the person being harmed following the event.

How: validate the person and their experience by showing solidarity and support.

Possible phrases to try:

  1. “I saw what just happened. That wasn’t okay. Is there anything you need?”
  2. “Would you like someone safe to walk with you the rest of the way?”

Direct

Purpose: to intervene directly with the person causing harm.

How: confront the person doing harm and name the inappropriate behavior directly. (Note: this option can be dangerous and should be assessed using the questions found here.)

Possible phrases to try:

  1. “What you are doing is not appropriate. Stop.”
  2. “They’ve asked you to leave them alone. Please stop.”

Always discern which of these is most appropriate for you in the moment as well as how they might impact your safety.

A final note on the relevancy of these tactics:

For those of us living in the United States, we are officially back in a presidential election cycle.

And over the next few months, this reality will be top of mind for many of our family members, colleagues, folks we pass on the street, and, of course, ourselves. This means the language, rhetoric, and behavior modeled by the candidates will show up in all aspects of our lives.

Given what we know about former President Trump, this is going to include witnessing instances of dehumanizing harm, hatred, and harassment.

It is going to be vital for each of us to know how to intervene and then to do it when necessary.

If you would like more training in bystander intervention, Right to Be offers a variety of free workshops rooted in these practices. I can’t recommend this group’s work enough; I truly believe everyone should take one of their offerings.

Their upcoming free workshops are linked below.

2. Questions

  1. When is a time you've witnessed harassment or another form of harm and decided not to intervene? What was happening in your body in that moment?
  2. As you think about the coming months, in which of your spaces is intervention going to be most likely? Which of the 5 D's will you lead with, if appropriate to the situation, and what will you say? (I recommend practicing beforehand!)

3. Resources


⏪ If you missed last week's email:

I shared a teaching about our (more than five) senses.


🧩 Community Question

(As an invitation into storytelling, I'll be sharing a community question each week for the next month or so. If an answer or short story pops up for you in response, please share by hitting "reply!")

In times of crisis, what is one practice or activity that has helped you feel stable, secure, or whole?

A big thank you to Barb, Martina, Tim, Michael, and Ruth for your responses to last week’s question about wisdom teachers. I wanted to pass along Ruth’s beautiful reflection:

“My dear grandmother, who I called Gram, was such a loving wise person in my life. When she died, I felt like I lost a best friend. Her joy of living and hope and laughter and wise living was a huge influence on me and still is as I try to embody her.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 🙏


Hope all is well-enough with you,

Andrew

IG: @andrewglang

Andrew Lang - The Wednesday 1-2-3

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