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Appendix One: Active bystander

Appendix one: On being an active bystander 

An active bystander is someone who is not prepared to stand by and watch things that they think are wrong take place. It may be about the words they hear or the actions that they see, either way they are willing to stand up in one form or another for what they believe is right. We can all be active bystanders but sometimes the thought of doing so can be a little scary. 

Starting a conversation (with kindness) 

In addition to recognising that it is probably the start of a conversation, there are five key things to remember: 

• Focus on impact rather than intent 

• Be as factual as possible 

• Be specific 

• Stay calm 

• Use your judgement to decide the appropriate time to intervene but do not miss your moment 

• We can call people in rather than call them out 

A simple three-part form of words can be adapted and used in most situations to get the conversation underway: 

1. When you describe what the other person has done or said 

2. I felt describe how you felt or feel 

3. Because explain why you feel or felt that way (if appropriate) 

For example: “When you asked the team for feedback and ignored my contribution I felt belittled because it suggested that my views were not worth considering and had no value”. 

When we call people in we don’t directly challenge what was said or done but we do invite the other person to question their words and actions. Calling in is done in the spirit of friendship. For example, “What was that all about? It seemed a bit out of character for you”. 

Hearing what’s being said (ouch) 

It can be uncomfortable to be told that we have caused offense. However, regardless of whether we can engage in a conversation at the time or need to think things through we can: 

• Say thank you 

• Apologise 

• Remain teachable (take the learning) 

• Ask the person what they would like to happen next 

We can then consider the situation from the other person’s point of view and decide if there is anything more that we need or want to do. 8 

Not just here for the nasty things in life 

We can also let people know that they have had a positive impact on us. Receiving positive feedback can turn a bad day into a good day and a good day into a great day. 

I’ve done my best but….. 

There will be times when we cannot see the other person’s point of view and do not know what to do next. If this is the case we can take the time to talk in confidence to a colleague.