Calling In Not Calling Out

by Lillian Roth 

I’ve never been described as meek, passive, or chill. From high school debate team to GroupMe political discussions, I’ve never passed up on a good back-and-forth. When I disagree with someone or get offended by a situation, I love to speak up and voice my opinion. To a fault, I’m not afraid to “call someone out.”

But what I’ve realized through countless debates and disagreements is that this does not work. Calling someone out is not effective.

Calling someone out is, by definition, exclusive and isolating. When you forcefully exclude someone out of the conversation, you are in turn leaving them out of the opportunity to learn from your perspective. Yes, calling out can show someone that you are mad, but it is not helpful in changing their opinion or making them comfortable to have a discussion.

A few months ago while listening to one of my favorite podcasts Stuff Mom Never Told You, I discovered a new approach that works exponentially better. It’s known as “calling in.” When you disagree with someone or can’t stand someone’s opinion, instead of telling them how disgusted you are, you calmly explain your stance. It has helped me place a finger on a concept I have struggled to understand myself. When we call people out, it is reactive and passive. It critiques and mislabels actions as failures rather than showing the potential we all have to grow, whether that is in advocacy, education, or even our friendships with one another. Calling in challenges us to be present and engaged in our own belief systems. It can prevent further misunderstandings, create meaningful conversations and broaden our understanding of the world.

Some examples spell this out for us:


A male friend tells you that the gender-wage gap is made up.

Call him out: “Actually, you idiot, the wage gap between men and women exists in almost every field! I shouldn’t expect you to understand, given that you have never had to deal with it personally.”

Call him in: “Here is an informative article I found on the wage gap that I think you might find interesting! I am still learning more about it myself but I’ve found this is a great resource. It turns out that the gender-wage gap is also widened by other factors such as race and sexual orientation. Let me know what you think, I’m interested to hear your thoughts!”


While standing at a party, two girls are talking to you about how big of a “slut” another girl across the room is. One gossips, “I mean look how short her skirt is. No wonder that guy grabbed her ass.” The other giggles, “Yeah, hardly ‘assault.’”

Call them out: “Alright SHUT THE F UP. Y’all are stupid and uneducated on rape culture and slut shaming.”

Call them in: “Y’all I know in our society we often see the girl getting blamed, but in reality, we can wear ANYTHING we want to. No matter what we have on, no one has the right to touch us. We can all agree that it’s hard enough to be a girl as is! Let’s not perpetuate slut shaming -- girls need to support girls. Let’s talk about this more tomorrow! Coffee on me.”


Calling in accomplishes so much more. Taking the opportunity to express your stance and also explain why their opinion was offensive or incorrect can give you the opportunity to share your personal experiences and knowledge rather than put people down for what oftentimes is not an intentional jab. Calling someone in gives you the opportunity not only to hear alternative perspectives but to talk through yours as well.

Since listening to the podcast I have challenged myself to follow this mantra; instead of getting upset by someone’s actions I try to suggest positive changes that can be made so that we all can do better in the future. I have added several podcasts and TED Talks to my daily routine to broaden my understanding of different topics and perspectives. I have prioritized a growth mindset throughout the blog process so that when one of us doesn’t understand the full scope of an issue we can continue to build each up and educate one another. In everyday conversations, I have challenged myself to both be more open to suggestions as well as push myself to share my own insight in a more inviting way. Truthfully, we all have room to grow and learn from one another. Understanding that we don’t know everything is a crucial part of growing up.  A growth mindset means having an open mind to conversation and a mentality to learn from others. Calling someone in is more reflective of a growth mindset and important in our already controversial political environment. Next time don’t call out; call in — I dare you.

Lillian Roth