Maryland Positive Behavior Support Training

Being Aware of Our Language and Our Actions

A man sitting at a desk holding a sign that reads: "Do you speak English?"

Being person-centered means that we are aware of how our cultural background has a positive or negative impact on the way we are working with other people. We are not always aware that what we say or do can convey something that we did not intend. These actions may be taken as a sign that you do not value or respect another person.

Imagine the following situations:

  • You are in your own home and talking with someone you hired who is supporting you. During the conversation, the person refers to you as a “my client” and says ”let’s do your cares” (referring to plan of care).
  • At your medical appointment, a staff person supporting you talks directly to the doctor about your personal health but does not include you in the conversation. The staff and doctor ignore you while they discuss your health issues.
  • While getting ready to take a shower, you can’t find any of your towels because someone has ”put them away for you” but the person did not ask you where you usually put your towels.
  • As a transgender person, you are regularly referred to using a gender pronoun that does not reflect your chosen identity.
  • You were born in the United States and are a person of color. A new staff person asks you “What country are you from?” You respond by saying ”I was born in Maryland.”

These experiences can be described as micro aggressions. These are brief interactions that convey a negative message that another person is receiving.

It is important to become aware of how our actions may not convey the respect we feel towards a person. Sometimes this means that we need to ask the person if we have offended them. It can be helpful to take time to reflect on our own actions and how a person is responding to us. Being an ally and a friend to a person means that you are trying to be more aware of mistakes you make and to remain accountable for those mistakes when you say or do something that makes a person frustrated, angry or sad. Actively delivering positive messages that are inclusive and convey respect and caring can change everyday interactions making them more positive. These positive messages are called micro affirmations.

  • Talking loudly or slowly to someone who has a disability or in a way that indicates the person cannot understand you
  • Making assumptions that a person cannot complete a simple task or activity without support
  • Using images that do not include diversity among people
  • Assuming all people with disabilities have experienced trauma
  • Asking other people for their opinions in conversations
  • Highlighting and celebrating strengths and achievements in a sincere manner
  • Engaging in friendly facial expressions, gestures, and other nonverbal messages while being sensitive to preferred interaction styles
  • Showing interest in another person’s interests, goals, and dreams


Write down or share with another person a time when you felt someone was disrespectful to you but was not aware that they had offended you:

  • How did you feel?
  • Did you tell the person how you were feeling?