Defeating Unconscious Bias: Asking the Right Questions Can Help! Those of you who have subscribed to this newsletter for some time know that I have a “thing” about the bias-busting power of identifying what we have in common. For those who haven’t been with me long, I’ve placed some links at the bottom of this newsletter to get you up to speed on just why and how identifying commonalities is such an effective way to defeat bias.
As you dig into those links, you’ll find that the bottom line is a simple one: When we identify what we have in common with people different from ourselves, any bias (inflexible belief) about the group to which they belong is likely to begin to fade.
Toward this end, I’ve provided below a training activity that is a powerful tool for highlighting what your diverse team members have in common. It can be used both for in-person training and as a way to create engagement during virtual programs.
- Invite a volunteer to function as the “primary responder” to the questions you supply. If time allows for more than one person to be the responder, try to achieve as much visible diversity as possible among those chosen for this role.
- Select five questions from the list below. As you ask each question out loud, have both the primary responder and the rest of the group jot down their answers. (Depending upon the time allotted and the size of the group, the number of questions asked can be increased or decreased.)
- Once all the questions are asked, have the primary responder provide his or her answers, one by one. If the program is virtual, it is strongly suggested they do so verbally and on camera.
- After each response is read, ask the group if any of their answers are similar to those provided by the primary responder. If so, have them share the details. As facilitator, make the point that human beings have a lot more in common than we realize. This point is particularly powerful if the two people who answered similarly are in other ways different from each other.
- When concluding the session, encourage participants, once they return to the workplace, to build on the commonalities that this activity has brought to light.
Think of these questions as mere suggestions. Use your imagination and experience to augment the list.
- What single nonliving item would you rescue from a fire in your home and why?
- If you could have had any occupation other than your own, what would it be? What is it about that job that appeals to you?
- Imagine given a million dollars to spend freely, what would you spend it on? Why would you make that choice?
- Suppose you could have lunch one-on-one with any person, living or dead, that you currently do not know, who would it be and why?
- Identify three pieces of advice did your parents give you? Have you found that advice valuable?
- Recall what you remember most fondly about your favorite holiday or tradition? Provide details.
- Think about if you could live during any time in history, when would it be and why?
- Ponder one item, other than a boat, would you take to a deserted island and why?
- What talent that you don’t currently possess would you most like to have? What is it about that talent that appeals to you?
- Recall about you or your achievements are you most proud?
Again, throughout the discussion, encourage participants to explore and focus on the interests, concerns, passions that they share. I guarantee, you will be surprised at what you uncover.
More Material About Identifying Commonality:
The Diversity Paradox: What We Share, How We Differ
Haul Out Your Hoe: Seven Reasons for Cultivating Common Ground
I Like You if You’re Like Me: The Value of Seeking Common Ground
Common Ground is Valuable Real Estate
Reduce Bias by Cultivating Common Ground
The material in this post reflects the ideas expressed in Dr. Thiederman’s book 3 Keys to Defeating Unconscious Bias and in the training videos Defeating Unconscious Bias: 5 Strategies and Gateways to Inclusion: Turning Tense Moments into Productive Conversations.
Sondra Thiederman can be contacted for in-person presentations, virtual facilitation, and panel participation by clicking here or calling 619-583-4478. For additional information, go to www.thiederman.com.
© copyright 2021 Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.
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