Biases include both favourable and unfavourable ideas, knowledge, and assumptions that affect the way we engage with the world. They are the things that your subconscious “knows” that you don’t even realise are informing your decision-making process. Every person on the planet holds unconscious biases that affect their behaviour, preferences and even their treatment of others. Most don’t even realise it. If you want to break out of your comfort zone, you’ll need to recognise, accept, and study potential unconscious biases because they could be causing you to make incorrect decisions.
Consider these “Small Steps”
Step 1: Accept that Everyone has Biases
We are a product of our birth, upbringing, and experiences. While human nature is very similar across all cultures in many ways, in other ways, we are very different because our ideas, knowledge and assumptions are not always clear. This is most noticeable when it comes to classism, racism, and even sexism. Even though it’s a volatile topic, it is helpful to shine the light on these types of biases because they are so obvious. For example, we all know that the statement, “Men are stronger than women” is not true. Just like we know that the statement, “Women are better parents than men,” is not true. Even if, in your experience, the men you’ve encountered are stronger than the women you’ve met, and all the women you’ve known were the primary parents doesn’t mean that it’s true in all cases. You must accept that you have this bias based on your experience and that while it may be true, it may not be true.
Step 2: Learn About Human Nature and People
The more you engage with a diverse group of individuals, the more likely you are to be exposed to other legitimate ideas than your own or those that have formed among your normal peer group. Look around you and try to meet and expose yourself to people outside your group by joining book clubs, taking a course, or learning a new language. Whatever you can do to learn more about human nature and people such as travelling for example, will help you expose your own biases and solidify their existence. When you learn about other cultures and the ideas other people have outside of your own race, religion, and sex, you’ll uncover many cultural stereotypes that you have about them and that they have about you. Being open to learning about these ideas can really help open your mind and your world. Let them learn from you too by being open about your own assumptions and biases. They will appreciate it and you’ll really change your and their worldview.
Step 3: Focus on Yourself
While you are learning about other people, places, and things, it’s important that you explore your inner thoughts and ideas. Recognise that you only control one person and that’s you. You control your thoughts and your behaviour, and you can only improve all of that by learning more to overcome your biases so that you can push through your comfort zone. The more you focus on yourself, your own thoughts, and behaviours, the more you realise how your behaviour and actions affect other people, places, and things. This is an amazing power because once you realise the power, you do have to affect change and make an impact by overcoming these unconscious biases you’ll really and truly break through your comfort zone.
ENGAGE Top Tip
Do research on the unconscious mind, there are plenty of videos, experts and books on the subject and you may be surprised to learn how much of your life is on “auto-pilot”. I’ve listed some useful resources on my website.
Quotes to Ponder
“We must all acknowledge our unconscious biases, and listen with less bias when women, and others who are marginalised, speak out. A lot of change is possible by just acknowledging unconscious bias – that exhaustively documented but unpleasant reality many would rather ignore – and listening with less bias and acting on what we then learn.“
- Tara Moss: Canadian-Australian author, documentary maker and presenter, journalist, former model and UNICEF national ambassador for child survivor
“In order to create real change, we need to understand unconscious bias as a fundamental social justice issue that gives birth to all kinds of -isms in our society, not some standalone concept that is nice to know.”
- Michelle Kim: internationally acclaimed pianist, educator and ambassador for the arts
Ask Yourself This
How do I deal with unconscious bias in the workplace?