Medium 9781626567276

Overcoming Bias

Views: 178
Ratings: (0)
Control, Conquer, and Prevail!

Everybody's biased. The truth is, we all harbor unconscious assumptions that can get in the way of our good intentions and keep us from building authentic relationships with people different from ourselves. Tiffany Jana and Matthew Freeman use vivid stories and fun (yes, fun!) exercises and activities to help us reflect on our personal experiences and uncover how our hidden biases are formed. By becoming more self-aware, we can control knee-jerk reactions, conquer fears of the unknown, and prevail over closed-mindedness. In the end, Jana and Freeman's central message is that you are not the problem—but you can be the solution.

List price: $17.95

Your Price: $13.46

You Save: 25%

Remix
Remove

7 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

Chapter One: What is bias and why does it matter?

ePub

If you’re a man, or you have men in your life, here’s some news you can use: grow a beard. Seriously. Men with beards are seen as more trustworthy. Two men advertising the same product, one with a beard and one without, make customers feel differently. The fact is, bearded salesmen sell more stuff.1 Most people would tell you beards on spokesmen don’t sway them, but they’d be wrong. Why? Because our brains have subtle preferences that we don’t even know about. Americans, it turns out, have a pro-beard bias.

As a cultural ally, someone who seeks to expand their understanding of others and use it for good, you probably have a sense of what bias is. Many people know it when they see it, but can’t define it very well. Here is a simple definition to prevent any confusion:

What types of things might a person favor over another? Well, anything really—a person might prefer certain flavors, colors, textures, sports, cities, teams, etc. No one really gets bent out of shape over flavor bias. Tiffany, for example, can’t stand spicy flavors.

 

Chapter Two: Start with you

ePub

So we warned you in the introduction that you should examine your own bias before extending your counsel to others. The best way to teach is to model change. How can we insist that others do the hard work of holding themselves accountable for their biased attitudes and behavior if we have not truly taken the time to closely examine and overcome our own bias? We are going to teach the teacher. Then you can go out and teach the world. We promise, it won’t hurt.

So, the process of overcoming your bias starts with you. By overcoming, we mean to control, conquer, and prevail over your bias. With self-awareness, attention, and effort, you can become aware of the way in which bias operates in your life. Then, you can make deliberate choices to minimize the impact your brain’s automatic preferences have on how you treat people. Will your brain ever stop having automatic preferences? No. Bias is a hardwired survival mechanism. Can you ever completely rewire your brain to overwrite its current biases? Maybe—the jury is still out.1

 

Chapter Three: In-groups and out-groups

ePub

Let’s start with some good news: you probably already have the foundation for building authentic relationships across differences. You likely treat people with respect, listen, empathize, and stick with your friends through disagreements and challenging times. We are also fairly certain that your friends, colleagues, and family members do, as well. The problem is not that you and your peers are unfamiliar with healthy behavior. The problem is that you and they, like the rest of us, may be limiting your best behaviors to what we call the “in-group,” or the people we know and like best. An in-group might be people who went to the same university you did, people from your hometown, or, more problematically, people who share racial and cultural similarities to you. Remember from the previous chapters that when the bias relates to people-based differences, particularly the ones we cannot change or control, that is where trouble lurks. People who are not part of this in-group, however it’s defined, become an out-group. Unfortunately, we tend to demand more from out-groups in order to trust them, or to see them as competent.

 

Chapter Four: Check your privilege (and your ego)

ePub

There would be no bias if there were no differences. You can’t overcome bias if you can’t acknowledge that other people see the world differently than you do. And in order to do that, you must recognize that your perspective is not the only one, and that you are highly unlikely to be right all the time. That means checking your ego, and also acknowledging your privilege. Unchecked bias can look like privilege, so it’s important to take the time to differentiate the two.

It doesn’t matter who you are: if you are reading this book, you are privileged in some way. Privilege, in this context, simply means an advantage available to one group that isn’t available to everyone. You, for example, can read. According to UNESCO, that alone puts you ahead of 10 to 20 percent of people over age 15 worldwide. Why the 10 percent disparity? If you are a man, you are more likely to be literate.

Generally speaking, privilege blinds you to the challenges that others face. Suffering through a challenge helps you build empathy for others in a similar situation. So, for example, if you or a loved one has suffered through a chronic illness, you’re more likely to identify with the pain of another in a similar situation. The privilege of relative health doesn’t make you a bad person, but it makes it harder (but not impossible!) to understand the daily complexities and challenges of navigating life with a chronic condition. And so it is with identity-based privilege. If you’ve never feared being mistreated by the police because of the color of your skin, it can be challenging to fully understand the constant fear that haunts many people of color in their interactions with law enforcement. If we are to build authentic relationships across difference, we must do the hard work of recognizing our privilege so we can navigate the resulting blind spots more thoughtfully. The starting point is, once again, self-awareness.

 

Chapter Five: Scan to expand

ePub

Scan to expand means keeping your eyes open and looking for opportunities to broaden your cultural horizons. This is where building authentic relationships across differences comes into play. Chapter 3 was about in-groups and out-groups. Those often exist intact without any effort. Scanning to expand is about making a deliberate effort to notice individual differences and really pushing the limits of building bridges across them. This is not the time to be colorblind, gender neutral, or to experience the world as a melting pot with everything ending up a gooey, formless, grey blob.

When you enter an event, do you immediately look around for the people you already know and make a beeline for them? Most of us do. There is comfort in the familiar. What we are suggesting is that you deliberately and actively seek out opportunities that will expose you to new people, new ideas, and new places.

Remember contact theory? We designed “scan to expand” in response to the research that tells us we can reduce interpersonal bias by spending protracted amounts of time with people about whom we have known or unknown bias. If you chose to take the Implicit Association Test and identified one or more potential biases, then you should consider scanning your environment for opportunities to work or play in group settings with people who represent the categories you identified as a demographic where you could reduce your bias.

 

Chapter Six: Ask, don’t assume

ePub

Assumptions are biases that can destroy relationships. Can you remember a time when someone made an assumption about you that wasn’t true? Was it funny? Hurtful?

We all know what the kids say: “When you assume you make an ass of u and me.” It is silly, of course. But as with many lessons learned in kindergarten, it is indeed useful. People do not often enjoy being pigeonholed, labeled, or thought of as one-dimensional. People are complex. Being human is hard. And the more marginalized or unfamiliar your group is, the more challenging it is to navigate the perils of everyone else’s assumptions. Don’t think of assumptions as harmless generalizations—see them for the biases they actually are.

Tiffany recalls a cycle of assumptions that followed her through her educational experiences.

I was often the only black student in a sea of white faces. My minority status was omnipresent and the norm for me. I actually didn’t mind at all until the lessons on slavery or black history came up. Everyone would look at me and assume I was some sort of race expert, even as a child. Maybe they were looking for my reaction—who knows? But I was asked questions about being black and I did not like being put on the spot, as if that was my only identity. Then there was the inevitable arrival of another black student. If it was a boy, everyone assumed that I was going to date him. Or at least they thought that I should date him—because we were both black.

 

Chapter Seven: Listen, don’t judge

ePub

What happens after you ask? You listen. And listening, as simple as it sounds, is an essential but challenging skill to practice when interacting with people who have ideas that are different or conflicting to you. Studies have repeatedly shown that most of us are terrible at listening, at least when measured by asking people to recall what others have said. One seminal study indicated that most of us only recall about 25 percent of what we hear.1

Listening empathetically is the key to helping you move beyond your assumptions about another person’s experiences and perspectives. We spend our lives attempting to justify our perspectives and choices, and when someone shares a story that challenges our own worldview, most of us stop listening and start creating a defense of our own opinions.

Imagine a world where everyone is free to live life their way without causing harm. You can be part of that world if you suspend judgment long enough to get to know people for who they really are instead of who you think they are.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Chapters

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
BPE0000180642
Isbn
9781626567276
File size
6.34 MB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata