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From Issue: 951 [Read full issue]

Unconscious Bias

Here are four steps to begin fighting bias in yourself.

1. Pay attention to how your bias shapes your environment

Eliminating the impact of bias in your life requires you to acknowledge that it exists in the first place. Acknowledging that you have unconscious bias is not admitting a moral failing—this is part of the human condition. Once we acknowledge our bias and begin to pay attention to how it impacts us, we will be ready to do the work to overcome it.

2. Expose yourself to counter-stereotypical images

One of the most powerful ways to combat unconscious bias is to diversify the stories we encounter, so that we can connect with the humanity of people who may look and sound different to us. This means watching movies, reading books, or attending performances that target groups we are less familiar with.

It can also mean purposefully seeking inspiration from moral exemplars of different ethnicities, races, genders, and abilities. Studies have shown that being exposed to counter-stereotypical images and stories of people from other groups leads to less implicit bias.

3. Reach out across difference

We can also seek ways to connect with people who are different from us in our everyday lives, whether at work or in our personal life.

That means keeping your eyes open and looking for opportunities rather than waiting for them to fall into your lap. For example, when you go to a work or social event, don't simply scan the crowd for people you already know; look for people you don't know—who might seem different from you—and see if you can strike up a conversation. Simple contact can be a powerful way to combat bias.

4. Ask, don't assume; listen, don't judge

Research has shown that cross-group friendships can make a big difference in reducing prejudice and bias. But how to create that trust? By learning to ask rather than assume, and to listen rather than judge. In this way, we can stop the disconnection that may arise through misunderstanding.

To authentically connect with people across differences, you must suspend your own judgment long enough to actually hear their experiences. Ask open-ended questions and seek to understand rather than to challenge or convince.

As hard as it can feel to confront your unconscious biases, with motivation and effort these simple steps can set you down that path. And building authentic relationships across differences is an essential part of your journey.

Compiled From:
"How to Build Relationships across Difference" - Matthew Freeman

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