Using unconscious bias to strengthen yourself
Diversity and inclusion is a very hot topic these days. One of the first things necessary to look at when you are considering diversity, equity, and inclusion is unconscious bias. Everyone has bias and a lot of the time its just something we learn from our family or in our interactions. It is okay, but the first thing to realize in this is that you must be aware of your biases. Biases include a wide array of things: race, gender, religion, ability, political affiliation, etc. Biases can even be as simple as not liking people that wear a certain color of clothing or have a certain color of hair. Bias can be formed on anything! You must simply identify those biases that you have.
Being aware allows you to achieve your full ability. To be aware you must identify these things within yourself, which can be very difficult. It’s just like being aware of your emotions. You need to step back and look at your interactions with others and see where those biases tend to come in. You must approach your interactions with open eyes, mind, and heart. Don’t judge yourself when you are identifying these biases, simply notice them.
You can be vulnerable when identifying biases and its completely okay if you don’t get things right. Talk about it without feeling shame. Explore your own awkwardness and discomfort by noticing how your body feels. Is there tension or tightness in your shoulders or arms? Are you feeling defensive or having resistance to hearing someone out? These feelings might show when you have an unconscious bias. Develop the capacity to shine a light on yourself. What situations or interactions are difficult for you? Do you let your expertise get in the way of hearing a new perspective?
To overcome these, you’ll need to get comfortable talking about differences. One idea is to find a friend that you trust and have a conversation. Discuss your perceived differences. Remember, instead of pretending that differences don’t exist, discuss them and how they make you strong as an individual. Behaviors may not be intentional and adding finger pointing or blaming one another for things could send those behaviors back underground without discussing the possibility for change.
Another way of working to overcome these biases is to be open to educating yourself. Choose some experiences that are different than your norm, read a different sort of book, or watch multicultural television. These experiences will help you to see your reactions and help you to be exposed in order to identify your unconscious biases.
An unending process
When interacting with others, be supportive and just listen. Offer them a safe space to talk. Be willing to take in emotions of their experiences and to know that you can’t always fix things. This is a journey, not a one-time conversation. It is important to remember, when interacting with others that becoming aware of your unconscious biases is a process. It will be a life long process of constantly reviewing yourself and identifying those things that you can do to help yourself to be a better person. What are you doing to help inspire diversity, equity, and inclusion around you?
Diversity is being invited to the dance; inclusion is being invited out on the dance floor.