CAREER & BUSINESS
The first hurdle we face as a society in dismantling bias is our own natures. Bias is baked into our brains. We literally can’t function if we don’t categorize the information we’re constantly exposed to: familiar, strange, interesting, boring. It is necessary for us to make inferences and assumptions. Otherwise, we’d be insensible with indecision.
Therefore, eradicating bias shouldn’t be the goal, and any plans to do so are inherently doomed to fail. So, what can we do? As individuals? As larger institutions?
As individuals, acknowledging and understanding bias is the first step toward lessening its influence. Experiences contribute to bias, and you have some control over the experiences you seek out. Here are ways you can harness the power of experience to start to disassemble bias:
- Put yourself in situations with people who are different than you. One of the most consistent findings in social psychology is that the more you are around people who are different from you, the more open-minded and tolerant you become. Especially if you can find common interests and values. We can hold problematic biases around race, age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, neurodiversity and political preference, so don’t shy away from events, conversations or destinations that might put you in the way of people you may be unfamiliar with.
- Practice empathy. Try to understand people’s motives, attitudes and actions based on a wider perspective. Expand your knowledge with reading by diverse authors. Think about how you would feel if you were in their situations or had their lived experience.
- Get real. In order to deal with your biases, you have to know what they are, and the Implicit Association Test (IAT) has been used for decades to explore the gap between what you think and do. Or the difference between your “implicit bias” and “explicit bias.” Take a test to learn your particular association in multiple categories.
- Act as-if bias-free. Although you might not be able to control how you think, you can control how you act. Set aside the easy assessment or categorization of other people and behave bias-free, or how you might imagine bias-free.
Collectively, these strategies for tailoring your experience will help reduce the impact of biased behavior.
However, work on an individual level is only part of the needed change to dismantle bias. We also need to realize that bias is also a structural and organizational problem that will require additional work to change. And it can’t be just about the employees or individuals working for the organization.
Organizations need to examine and explicate long-standing practices and procedures to determine how they might be stigmatizing or disadvantaging people of color, people of the LGBTQ+ community or any other group about which we hold a bias.
This is not easy, but it is necessary work, if we as a society hope to dismantle bias and fulfill the promise of America as “a land of the free and the brave.”
Intercultural communications can affect your relationships with employees, clients, corporate partners and other stakeholders when conducting business internationally. Join Dr. David N. Coury, PhD, in our September Expert Spotlight to learn how you can prevent misunderstandings and broaden your awareness of cultural differences.
We have partnered with Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr., of American & Moore, LLC, to create a youth program Peace, Equity and Social Justice for middle school and high school students, along with their parents, encouraging #RealTalk.
Fast Company, “How to Become a Less Biased Version of Yourself,” February 12, 2019, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
Insider, “Can Meditation Reduce Implicit Bias?” July 1, 2020, Sara Shah.
Scientific American, “The Problem with Implicit Bias Training,” August 28, 2020, Tiffany L. Green.