Remind participants that hate speech and hateful content triggers strong emotional responses in people involved in the situation. Identifying these emotions and using strategies (meta-moments) to regulate our emotional state allows us to take appropriate action in a conflict situation; action that may diffuse the situation peacefully, or at the very least do nothing that would exacerbate it.
The Media analysis unit explored how selection and editing of imagery may elicit strong emotional responses that require regulation.
The Media production unit explored hate speech scenarios that would produce strong emotional responses, how these emotions might affect the actions of those involved and how strategies to regulate emotion can alter the outcome of a situation.
The Citizenship unit used powerful performances as way to raise awareness in your community of hate speech, the emotions it can evoke, and the importance of using positive strategies to manage emotions, actions, personal safety and the safety of others around us.
The SELMA project short definition of hate speech is:
“Any online content targeting someone based on protected characteristics with the intent or likely effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination.”
Emotions are important: they give us information that can protect us from danger and guide us to make effective decisions. However, emotions sometimes hit us in a strong way and, if we are not careful, we might take the wrong information from our emotions, and behave in ways that we later regret. To take the right information from our emotions, we need to give ourselves the time to process them, reflect on them and then regulate them – to put them in their appropriate place – and then act. The aim of these activities is to encourage you and your friends to think about the relationship between your emotions and behaviour, and to work together to come up with effective techniques to handle your emotions in ways that serve, rather than harm you.
We’ll be looking at emotions and behaviour in the context of hate speech. As a reminder, hate speech is speech that targets individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their protected characteristics (such as race or nationality, religious belief, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity). Hate speech enables or encourages discrimination and violence against individuals with protected characteristics and certain forms of hate speech are illegal.
Activity 1: Who am I?
Note: Works best with a group of at least five learners.
1a. Who am I?
What you will need:
Remind learners that the SELMA toolkit is a set of modules designed to address hate speech through a social and emotional learning approach. Learners will be participating in this activity designed to encourage reflection on the relationship between their emotions, their behaviour and who they are as people.
It’s important that learners feel safe, comfortable and warmed up before participating in an activity. Check out our handy “How to” guide for general recommendations on how to introduce the peer-mentoring activities.
- Ask all learners to think about their personality. Would they describe themselves as kind? Responsible? If they had to narrow their whole personality down to 10 key words, which would those words be? Tip: If learners are stuck, you can suggest some words like “Funny”, “Caring”, “Assertive”, “Confident”….
- Ask learners to take 5-8 minutes to think about this and list them down on the “Who am I?” resource.
- While learners are working through the activity, you should walk around the room to see if they have any questions. Remember that this activity calls on learners to describe their personality - not their appearance or interests.
- When learners have completed the activity, invite one volunteer to present their list to the group, and explain that you would like learners to hold onto their sheets as you will be returning to it later in the activity.
1b. Who are they?
1bi. A photo is worth a thousand words
What you will need:
- Ask all learners to divide themselves into pairs and ensure that each pair has the material specified in the “What you will need” section.
- Explain that you would like them to go through their “Who are they?” sheet. Each page shows a photo of a different person. Learners should take 10-12 minutes, working in pairs, to describe each individual’s personality to the best of their ability, based only on the impression they get of them from the photo. Tell learners you understand they have very limited information, but that is the purpose of the game!
1bii. Context is all
What you will need:
- The “Who is this person?” resource completed in Activity 1bi.
- The “Who is this person? – Scenario” resource (either as a set of slides to project onto a screen, or if you do not have access to that equipment, print out a copy for each pair of learners).
- A whiteboard and board marker or flipchart and pen. You should draw a simple grid structure on the whiteboard or flipchart paper, creating seven sections. Label the sections: Person A, Person B, Person C, Person D, Person E, Person F, Person G.
- Explain to learners that you will now be discussing the “Who is this person?” activity they worked on in more depth.
- Go through each person of the “Who is this person?” resource completed in Activity 1bi one by one, asking learners to tell you what types of words they used to describe each person. Write down the words in the corresponding grid of the whiteboard or flipchart.
- Now ask learners to turn to the “Who is this person? – Scenario” resource. If you are projecting these slides onto a screen, go through them one by one and explain the scenario described on the page. Then read out the adjectives that each person themselves would use to describe their personality. Compare these words to the words that the learners had initially thought of, which you wrote in the grid.
- What do you notice about the difference between the personality descriptions you gave each person versus the descriptions they gave to themselves?
- Now ask learners to look at Person A, B and E.
- Look at their photo and read their description of their own personality. Do you think their photo reflects their personality? Why or why not?
- Would you have described any of the individuals differently had you known the context of their photo?
- We tend to judge our personalities based on a variety of factors and judge our behaviour in its context. However, we often form an impression of the personalities of others based on their behaviour. This means that people will also form an impression of our personality based on our behaviour. As much as possible, we want to behave in ways that we feel are true to our personality – that is how we build and strengthen our personality!
- When difficult situations arise and create strong emotional responses in us, we can sometimes behave in ways that do not reflect our personality and this could lead us to feel regret. Learning how to pause and calm ourselves down when we experience strong emotions is a powerful skill that can help us manage this.
Activity 2: Putting my best self forward
2a. Visualising your best self
What you will need:
- Remind learners that in Activity 1a, they were asked to describe their personalities – they may have used a mixture of positive and less positive words to describe their personalities.
- Remind learners that in Activity 1b, they thought about the way that our behaviour helps to build our personality and the impression that others form of our personality.
- Explain that, in this activity, you would like learners to draw themselves in the centre of the page (“My best self card” resource) and then use the different body parts (e.g. eyes, mouth, head, feet) as prompts to think about how their “best self” would behave when faced with a difficult or high pressure situation (e.g. a stranger has insulted them, a friend has betrayed them, a sibling has let them down, they have been the target of hate speech). Explain this by using the “My best self – example” resource. Would your best self always think carefully before acting? Would your best self always reach out to help someone in need? Encourage learners to imagine what type of behaviour their very best self would display
- While learners are working through the activity, you should walk around the room to see if they have any questions.
- When learners have completed the activity, invite one volunteer to present their “best self” to the rest of the group, and explain that you would like learners to hold onto their cards as you will be returning to it later in the activity.
2b. Taking a meta-moment
What you will need:
- Remind learners that, in the previous activities, you reflected on the importance of taking time to process and reflect on your emotions before acting. Wouldn’t it be great if we could try to act like our “best self” would act when faced with difficult situations? It’s not always easy – but there are some techniques that we can use to help us.
- Explain to learners that a key skill is learning how to take what is called a “meta-moment”. When something upsetting happens, it’s natural that this creates strong emotions in us. A “meta-moment” is a short pause we can take after something happens to us, to process our emotions and take control of our response.
- Ask learners to take some time to think about effective strategies they use for taking a “meta-moment”. This could include simply taking a deep breath, going for a walk, listening to their favourite song, chatting to a friend. Keep a copy of the material you learnt during your training to provide learners with some ideas.
- Give learners 5-8 minutes to brainstorm some ideas and, when they are done, to choose their favourites and write these out on their “Take a breather card”.
- Bring the whole group back together and ask learners to share their tips. Write these out on the whiteboard/ flipchart and encourage learners to add any new ideas they like to their “Take a breather card”.
- When the activity is done, ask learners to write keywords on their “Take a breather - ID” resource and “Best self - ID” resource (these will be prompts for themselves, and do not need to be understood by anyone else!).
- When the activity is done, ask learners to stick their “Take a breather - ID” and “My best self - ID” to one another (they should be stuck back to back so that it becomes one card with two sides)
- Explain to learners that this is a card they can keep on them – and that when a difficult moment strikes, they can grab their card – look at the “Take a breather” side to remind themselves to take a meta-moment, and then flip over to their “Best self” side to remember how their best self would act in that situation!
- Emotions are important: they give us information that can protect us from danger and guide us to make effective decisions. However, emotions sometimes hit us in a strong way and, if we are not careful, we might take the wrong information from our emotions, and behave in ways that we later regret. To take the right information from our emotions, we need to give ourselves the time to process them, reflect on them and then regulate them – to put them in their appropriate place – and then act.
- Taking a “meta-moment” is a great technique for regulating emotions. When a difficult situation strikes, don’t be in a rush to respond. Instead, take a moment – whether that’s taking a deep breath or talking to a friend – and process your emotions. Give yourself time to think about how your “best self” would act in that moment, and then be your best self! The more you practice this, the easier this will become over time – and that’s pretty awesome!
Consider the power of emotional regulation in shaping responses to hate speech. Develop effective emotional regulation strategies in the form of a tailored ‘Pause and Act’ card.