Calling-In: Delivery > Message

We all make mistakes sometimes. We’ll say things like “that’s so gay” or “that person is retarded”, forgetting how hurtful those words could be and how they foster a non-inclusive environment. So, what do we do when someone says or does something that could be potentially harmful to someone else?

There are three general responses:

  1. Do nothing.
  2. The person gets called-out.
  3. The person gets called-in.

The first two options are the most common and are the easiest to fall back to. It’s easy to turn a blind eye and think “they probably won’t do it again” or “it’s not that big of a deal”, when “doing nothing” in fact signals a big OK to that person and everyone around.

Calling-out, on the other hand, is an extreme in its own. It is the act of publicly ostracizing someone for their behaviour, usually with the purpose of stopping the oppressive behaviour. As pure as these intentions may be, there are several dangers of calling-out.

Calling-out is often done in public spaces where it could come across as public shaming and an attack on one’s character. The message often gets lost in the burst of passionate yelling, and the person calling-out may even forget their original message in their passionate fit.

If the message is so simple, to inform the person about the effects of their actions on others and to prevent future behaviour, why do people call-out in the first place? People who are passionate about the topic often use calling-out as a form of release for their anger and frustration.

The irony is that calling-out almost never prevents the person from conducting the same behaviour and is an act of oppression in itself. People being called-out may become angry and continue to perform that destructive behaviour out of spite, while some may become fearful from ever speaking up. Calling-out could also strain your relationship with that person and stop them from saying anything around you.

Calling-in is about taking your passion about the cause and constructing it in a way that effectively delivers your message. The concept revolves around the belief that people who say bad things aren’t always bad people. Everyone makes mistakes, including yourself, and sometimes people just need a reminder to get themselves back on track.

The way you present the message ultimately shapes how it is received. This is not to say that passion is at all discouraged, in fact, being passionate about a cause is what drives you to make an impact in your life and your community. It is important to channel anger or frustration in a way that will result in your desired outcome.

Here are some tips on how to call someone in:

1. Assume the best in the person: Assuming that the person didn’t intend to hurt anyone with their behaviour will show them that you are not judging their character. It will make them trust you and will lower their guard, making them more keen to listening to what you have to say.

2. Be direct: As much as you want to be calm when calling someone in, you need to get your message across. It is important to tell them about the potential (or actual) effects that their actions have otherwise they won’t understand why their behaviour needs to change.

3. Wait for the right time and place: Make your best judgment on the most appropriate time and place to call someone out, based on several factors: your relationship with them, the social environment, the urgency of time, the severity of the behaviour, etc. For example, if you are not very familiar with the person, it may be best to give them a bit of time and approach them individually to reduce the sense of urgency that may come with an immediate, public encounter. If the person is one of your friends, you may feel more comfortable calling them in on the spot knowing that they trust and respect what you have to say.

Learning to call someone in takes time and practice, so not to worry if you don’t feel comfortable doing it right away. Start small with encounters where fewer people are involved to give you more confidence and intimacy with the person you’re calling-in. Choose your battles because calling someone in can often take an emotional and mental toll on you. And, spread the word! Share the knowledge and benefits of calling-in with your friends, family, and community. This is a fight that can’t be fought alone - let’s work together to make the world a more inclusive one.

Written by Jasmine Huang 


Calling In Vs. Calling Out. (2016, April 12). Retrieved February 20, 2017, from

Ferguson, A. S. (2015, January 18). Calling In: A Quick Guide on When and How. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from