The Power of Bias and Our Lack of Awareness to It

Bias is real. You’re not a bad person for having it come into your decision making. You’re a better person for finding awareness in it and then doing something about it in yourself or others around you. Bias isn’t just something that is physical like gender, race, ethnicity it can be the strongest in our thinking. I battle with it everyday in my work life and personal life. We need more diversity of thought so fostering open dialogue and creating openness for others to share can happen.

Diversity of thought can do so much to move our communities and work cultures. Most would agree I would think, diversity of any kind is needed and good. What really matters though in my experience with improving diversity is not just visible differences in diversity, but diversity of ideas or thought. People’s unique perspectives their worlds and spaces I find fascinating great, fertile in ideas or creativity. Open-ended. Pure. The key is to work really hard at changing the way you think, versus sticking to your own personal dogma.

Be mindful that the visible differences you see in others around you are (not to use a pun here) surface level. It’s what is beneath the surface that is the best version of diversity you can come to explore or know more about. What you would call the whole person. By practicing this kind of inclusiveness of thought you get the whole story. You’re really at that point meeting them where they are at. Some factors to consider when working through deepening your idea of diversity are:

    Age
    Education
    Abilities/Skills
    Disabilities
    Culture
    Experience
    Ideology
    Profession
    Race
    Gender

All of these shape who we are and tell the complete story of diversity. Unfortunately, there are some not as skilled at seeing the whole picture only focusing on what they see. We have to change this way of scaling diversity.

Great quote from Emma Watson:

“How can we effect change in the world when only one half of it is invited or feels welcome to participate in the conversation?”

Great question and challenge from her. Communities are 35% more productive and much more likely to exact the change that they want when they try to scale to the whole picture their community brings. It’s unfortunate, but as human beings bias is innate in all of us. We judge. We judge people according to what we see, to standards we read about, we stereotype, and allow group favoritism to determine our views of balanced diversity. Which, really isn’t very balanced at all.

Bias can be unlearned. Taking the time to research and find the truth by meeting someone where they are at versus where you want them to be is one such way to do this. It involves the practice of probing and listening as you connect with people. Taking the time to look at every assumption you have and adopt strategies to correct it. Work hard to become mindful of your biases. There’s all kind of bias quizzes and questionnaires you can take yourself to see if you have any deep seated biases. I had some. Made me feel like crap, but empowered me to do something about it.

The most tactical approach I’ve read and studied though is working on our cultural competencies. Simply getting to know the world around me whether its the language, community, or history of the place I land I enter with an OPEN MIND. I research and learn about my surroundings. I’m kind of social to begin with and love talking to people around me I don’t know. This is a great platform to strike up meaningful conversations to learn more about the culture of the communities I encounter.

As humans, we’ve all got emotions. These emotions under pressure can create bias as well. Mediation I’ve found has helped me tremendously with my self-awareness. Think about this for a moment. You ever “feel” like something is amiss. Intuitive alarms that go off when under pressure, that something is afoot? That’s mindfulness and it can be used to help you with bias under pressure. You just need to learn to observe and manage you moods so they don’t trigger biased thinking or reactions

“The key point here is that as a human being you are an emotional being. This isn’t good or bad, it just is.”

– Alan Sieler

Being truly inclusive and getting opportunities to nurture complete diversity takes a lot of time and self-knowledge to get better at. So don’t get frustrated if out of the gates you kind of suck at it. Diversity training whether self led, from work programs, or through the community is great for everyone. We live in increasing complex spaces and need to meet it head on before we get buried by our bad biases. We can unlearn these biases by becoming more aware that we are having them. Allowing your spaces to breed inclusiveness and open thought will build a more diverse space.

The weekend is here! Thanks for viewing and I hope this helps you get more from there weekend!

✌🏻 Shawn

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