Article Contributed by Danielle Goldaper
Unconscious biases are a natural human behavior. They’re the shortcuts that our brains use to help us determine what we share in common and what is different about the people around us. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.
Unfortunately, our dependency on these “shortcuts,” may be inadvertently directing us to dead ends instead of open highways for growth! And that’s a BEST case scenario. We may even be unconsciously giving people the message that they don’t belong or that they aren’t valued – and that’s not a place where anyone wants to be!
I frequently find myself drawn to people who give off a sense of positivity and are outwardly excited about change and opportunities. Unfortunately, I may be missing out on some incredible viewpoints and best practices by not investing the same time in conversations with people who don’t outwardly display that contagious level of outward energy that excites me.
It’s easier than ever to unintentionally pre-judge the input, intentions and abilities of others by relying on those involuntary assessments that we make in seconds. We are all over-stimulated and time-crunched (personally and professionally), so we are learning to “trust our guts.” In and of itself, this isn’t a bad skill to improve upon, but we need to “gut check” too. And that means taking our time and challenging our initial hypotheses.
The Best Way To Overcome Our Own Unconscious Biases Is To Take The Time To Check Ourselves
Are you drawn to candidate A over candidate B because candidate A went to the same University as you did? This happens all the time. You share a similar experience and that makes it easier to trust what that person tells you. This is a natural human instinct. But it may prevent you from seeing the strengths of a better candidate. This is an opportunity to invite another trusted colleague to help you observe the potential of both candidates A & B as your “gut check.”
Do you always call on the same people to share their two cents on your team calls? Are those the people who look like you? Are they the people that share a similar energy level? Do you assume that certain team members have strengths in certain areas because you know someone else “just like them” that possesses those strengths? Challenge yourself to encourage a different voice to be heard or at the least, take the time to ask yourself some of these questions about the people who you are tapping into.
Challenge yourself to become a more inclusive leader that shows everyone on the team that they belong, they are valued and that they’re respected for who they are! This may mean that you will have to push through some awkward self-realizations and maybe some uncomfortable conversations too. We can all build better places to work by being better people to work with.