The Good Mistake MethodJun 02, 2023
A few months ago I made one of the biggest mistakes an ally could make: I outed a friend without their permission.
It was awful. How could I have been so thoughtless? In not thinking, I had made my friend feel uncomfortable, and that I wasn't a safe or trustworthy person.
We all know that mistakes happen, even as LGBTQIA+ allies. But here's the deal: when it comes to supporting our LGBTQ+ customers, we've got to make sure we handle those mistakes as best we can. This is where the "Good Mistake Method" comes in. By following these five simple steps, you can turn a mistake into an opportunity for growth and allyship. So, let's dive in and explore how you can be a better ally for LGBTQ+ customers!
Step 1: "Oops" - Okay, I messed up. Time to own it!
The first step in making a "good" mistake is acknowledging and understanding the significance of LGBTQ+ allyship in the business world. Recognise that supporting LGBTQ+ customers goes beyond mere inclusion—it is about actively creating safe, welcoming spaces where they can thrive. By acknowledging your mistakes, such as misgendering, lack of inclusivity in marketing materials, or in my case, outing someone, you show a commitment to rectifying past errors and ensuring a more inclusive future.
Step 2: "Ouch" - Oh no, that must have hurt!
The next step is to acknowledge any harm that the mistake may have caused. It's important to understand that even small mistakes can have a big impact on LGBTQ+ people. By acknowledging the harm, you're validating their experiences and showing that you understand the impact of your actions. This can go a long way in building trust and respect with your LGBTQ+ customers.
It's also essential to recognise the intersections of identity people navigate. LGBTQ+ individuals come from diverse backgrounds and may face multiple forms of discrimination. Your mistake may not have been "queerphobic", but it may have caused harm in other ways. Authentic allyship acknowledges the challenges faced by all marginalised and underrepresented people. By addressing intersectionality, you demonstrate a deeper understanding of their experiences and ensure that your allyship efforts are inclusive and meaningful.
Step 3: "I'm sorry" - Alright, time for an apology.
A sincere apology is a crucial step in the "Good Mistake Method." Take ownership of your actions and express genuine empathy for those impacted by your mistakes. Apologise not just for the specific incident, but for any harm caused by systemic biases or gaps in your practices. Demonstrate your commitment to long-term change by outlining concrete steps you will take to prevent similar mistakes in the future. This approach fosters trust, respect, and a genuine connection with LGBTQ+ friends, family, colleagues and customers.
Step 4: "Thank you" - Shout out to those who call us out!
My friend graciously emailed me with their feelings after I outed them. They took the time to call me out, correct me, and point me in the direction of some helpful resources to brush up on. This was an invaluable act of generosity from them.
When someone brings a mistake to your attention, view it as a gift! It's an opportunity for growth and dialogue. Instead of becoming defensive, thank them for their courage in speaking up and for doing the (free) emotional labour of educating you. By fostering open communication, you create an environment where feedback is welcomed and valued, and where meaningful change can take place.
Step 5: "I'm still learning" - Let's be lifelong learners, my friends!
I felt sick to the stomach the moment I realised I had outed my friend and genuinely lost sleep over several nights because my brain couldn't stop re-living the moments in my head. It was so hard to forgive myself. But the truth is, allyship is an ongoing and ever-evolving journey, and we all need to embrace the fact that we are continually learning and growing.
Mistakes will happen, but each one is an opportunity for growth. Commit yourself to continuous education, self-reflection, and the unending pursuit of becoming a better ally. By embodying a growth mindset and demonstrating your commitment to improvement, you establish a foundation of trust and respect with LGBTQ+ customers.
Becoming a genuine ally for LGBTQ+ customers is a complex and ongoing process. By following the "Good Mistake Method," you can cultivate meaningful allyship and foster an inclusive environment within your business. Acknowledge your mistakes, understand the significance of LGBTQ+ allyship, address intersectionality, and commit to long-term change. Remember, allyship is a lifelong journey of growth and learning. Embrace this journey, and together, let's create a future where all LGBTQ+ individuals feel seen, respected, and supported. You've got this!
By the way, if you're hungry for more tips and guidance on how to master LGBTQ+ allyship in your business, check out The Small Business Allyship Roadmap here.