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What are your thoughts about prejudice?

Image courtesy of Dan Allison

Most of us like to think we are kind, and non-judgemental, and think we treat all people fairly. It is certainly the way we would like the world to be but having been recently challenged myself, I would like to challenge you too! Have a look at the following list and think, REALLY HONESTLY, about what your gut response is…I don’t mean the measured and well-thought out behavioural response – I mean that split-second instant reaction to someone when you first encounter them:

· Smokers · Drug dealers · Alcoholics · People with shaved heads · Christians · Evangelists on street corners · Muslims · People with body odour · Football fans · Opera-goers · People who never exercise · Women who wear lots of makeup · People who talk about exercise all the time · Those with a different skin colour to me · Homeless people · Teenagers walking whilst texting · Mothers who shout at their kids · Fat people · Skinny people · Audi drivers · White van drivers · Slow drivers · People who cut you up on the motorway · People who leave dog mess on the pavement · Cat lovers · People who are not like us · Those who don’t speak our language · People who put apostrophes in the wrong place · People on benefits · Workaholics · People scrolling whilst talking to you · Queue-jumpers · People you find boring

Now, some of these are a little tongue-in-cheek but you get the drift. We are all influenced by societal and cultural prejudice, as well as our childhood and unique life experiences. For example, in some cultures it is the norm to wait patiently in a queue, or idealise thinness, but the very opposite may well be true in other cultures. Maybe you have other prejudices you would add to the list.

Unless we are aware of our own prejudices, we cannot do anything about them and they will inadvertently show up in relationships… even if we are careful to manage/control our seen behavioural response.

The more self-aware we are, the more authentic and sincere our relationships will be. If we can acknowledge our biases, and sit with that discomfort, and consider where the bias originates, it will positively impact future interactions.

To illustrate the point…

Negative bias:

Imagine you are bullied at work by a senior colleague who has a strong regional accent. The bullying becomes intolerable so you leave. From then on, without even being aware of it, you subconsciously avoid anyone who has the same regional accent, especially if they are in authority over you. You might not even realise that you are tarring all people from that area with the same brush, damaging any potential future interactions. If you were able to bring this to awareness, processing the distress of the bullying in coaching or counselling, you could then choose to re-frame the story as an isolated incident with one unpleasant person as opposed to a whole region of awful people!

Positive bias:

Perhaps you had a really wonderful, warm relationship with your grandfather. He always had time for you and you treasured every moment. You miss him greatly now. Your unconscious bias might lead you to believe that all elderly men are kind, wise and can be trusted, so subconsciously you gravitate towards characters who remind you of him. Consider the disappointment if you were to discover that some elderly men can be grumpy and short-tempered!

If any of this resonates for you please drop me a comment below, or message me for a no-obligation free Discovery Call.

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