"I apologize" and "no problem" could be "trigger" phrases for some customers — and alternate phrases called "calmers" should be spoken instead, Michigan State University student employees were taught this month, Campus Reform reported.
An hourlong "Inclusive & Culturally Sensitive Service to Residents & Guests" presentation was part of their mandatory fall training, the outlet said.
"Raise your hand if you've ever said 'no problem,'" MSU Facilities Manager Sheena Ballbach told the student employees, Campus Reform said. "Did you ever think that was a trigger? I say this all the time and never thought that this could be a trigger word. But if I'm saying 'no problem,' that's leading a customer to believe that they could be a problem, or they could be an inconvenience to you, and we're just assuring them that they're not."
What other 'triggers' were reportedly identified?
The outlet noted other "triggers" — along with their corresponding "calmers" — during the presentation:
- (Trigger) "It's our policy"; (Calmer) "Here's what we can do"
- (Trigger) "I don't know"; (Calmer) "I'll find out and get back to you"
- (Trigger) "But"; (Calmer) "And"
- (Trigger) "You should have"; (Calmer) "What others have found helpful"
- (Trigger) "The only thing we can do"; (Calmer) "The best option would be"
As for the trigger "I apologize," the calmer phrase "I am truly sorry" should be used instead, Campus Reform reported, adding that the calmer "You're welcome; it was my pleasure" should be used instead of the trigger "No problem."
And rather than possibly "misgendering customers," student employees instead should greet them, state their own names, and then ask, "What is your name?" the outlet said.
On that note, even words like "sir" or "ma'am" were deemed problematic, Campus Reform noted.
"How many of you were ever raised to say 'yes sir' or 'yes ma'am?" Ballbach reportedly asked, according to the outlet, adding that she said not everybody "identifies" with "sir" or "ma'am."
Ballbach also reportedly said she "would like to start seeing a culture around MSU where we say … 'they' not 'his' or 'hers,'" Campus Reform said.
The outlet added that Eduardo Olivo — the school's assistant director of diversity, equity, and inclusion — also emphasized the importance of not misgendering others.
"We live in a [sex and gender] binary world ... we all know that's just a social construction," he stated, according to the outlet.
Campus Reform said it reached out Ballbach and Olivo but did not hear back from them in time for publication.