Bias= “An inflexible belief about a particular category of people.”
Let’s face it, biases are hard to change. Often rooted in childhood impressions, enhanced by the media, strengthened by rumor and occasional experience – biases become planted in our psyche seemingly impossible to dislodge.
But, are they really that firmly rooted? In some cases, yes, especially if the biased belief is embedded in the culture that surrounds the believer. But, other times – I’d even venture to say most of the time – they can be dislodged by approaches that are remarkably effective at helping others recognize, own, and, even abandon their biased attitudes.
Let’s examine one such approach – I’ll call it Respectful Persuasion. Here’s what it looks like:
1. Respectful Persuasion is characterized by the clearly communicated message that the other person has the right to believe as they do. This doesn’t mean for a moment that we agree with the content of their belief, but merely that they have the right, as a human being, to believe it.
2. Respectful Persuasion diligently avoids labelling or denigrating the other person because of their bias or attitude. Labels like “homophobic”, “sexist”, “racist”, or, more generally, statements or implications that the person is “ignorant,” or, most broadly, a “bad person” serve only to sabotage your efforts.
To really drive this point home, I’d like you to take a moment to think of a time when you were subjected to the opposite of Respectful Persuasion – when you were sent the message you had no right to your belief or, worse, that you were somehow deficient for believing it? What was your reaction to this treatment? Stop reading for just a minute and give it some thought…………………….
I’ll wager that reaction most certainly did not involve your coming around to the other person’s point of view – or, more pertinent here, to giving up a bias. Instead, this disrespectful approach gave you an excuse – even, one could argue, a reason – for slamming the door on any possibility of change. Frankly, I wouldn’t blame you. After all, when we’re attacked – especially when we feel negated – we defend and that impulse to defend ourselves utterly negates our ability to listen, to hear, and to change.
Doesn’t sound like a good bias-reduction strategy to me. Respectful Persuasion – give it a try next time around.
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 2020 Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.
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