Understanding Behaviour - [website] Email Print
Published: 24th of Jul 2017 by: Carolyn Kessler

I am struck again and again by how poorly we understand that we view things through the lens of our own experiences, prejudices and fears. We are blissfully unaware that we’re labelling and ‘boxing’ others based on these, often unreliable, biases.

It’s too easy for us to go down the wrong path completely when communicating with someone if we don’t have an innate understanding of basic personality types and their preferred methods of communication and focus. Add to this, the fact that we are bringing all our own baggage into any interaction we have with one another, and you have a recipe for a truck-load of misunderstanding.

We jump to conclusions about the motivation behind another person’s actions and words, all the while falsely believing we have a handle on exactly where they are coming from. The fact that we’re so often wrong doesn’t appear to deter us either!

We attribute all sorts of negative labels to others, often unconsciously. I came across an account of a study carried out overseas with a view to demonstrating unconscious bias.

The study involved observing a teacher and her class for a full year. Neither she nor the children were aware of the experiment; had they been alerted it would have affected the authenticity of the outcome. They compared the marks awarded by the teacher to two groups of children. One group comprised blond, blue-eyed children and the second comprised brunette, brown-eyed children.

The results were fascinating. The teacher appeared to treat all the students the same, but the discrepancy in the average between the groups spoke volumes. She had unconsciously awarded something like 7% higher marks to the blond, blue-eyed group! This discrepancy did not speak to there being an overall difference in the levels of ability between the children. It was a result solely of an unconscious bias she held towards the blond kids.

The problem with this type of bias is the fact that it is unconscious. So long as it remains hidden, we don’t know that it needs to be addressed!

Our Diversity training workshops are geared towards alerting delegates to the probable presence of this phenomenon and how to prevent it from informing all their actions.

This is a situation where knowledge really is power. We won’t jettison these prejudices overnight, but once we become aware of their existence we can analyse our behaviour more effectively – thereby preventing ourselves from engaging in actions which often lead to unpleasant outcomes.

Staff Training is a soft skills training provider. Contact us at 0861 996 660.

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