You’ve probably heard about this thing called “unconscious bias.” It’s not the same as being prejudiced, and it’s something we all deal with, whether we realise it or not. Unconscious biases are like those sneaky ideas that get planted in our minds throughout our lives. They come from all sorts of places – our family, teachers, friends, the media – you name it. These little biases can have a big impact on how we see the world and interact with people.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Mo Kanjilal, C-Creator of Watch This Space who took us through what uncoscious bias is, the surprising ways it can manifest and how to combat it.
Unpacking Unconscious Biases
Unconscious biases don’t discriminate. Even if you belong to a particular group, you might still carry some hidden negative stereotypes about that group. It all depends on your personal experiences. It’s like our brains have this autopilot mode that sometimes leads us to jump to conclusions about people based on stuff we’ve picked up along the way.
Procrastination: A Quirky Form of Bias
Ever found yourself procrastinating when you have a big, important task to tackle? Well, that’s a form of unconscious bias, believe it or not. It’s like your brain prefers quick rewards, like scrolling through social media or doing the dishes, over long-term benefits. Recognising this bias is the first step to beating it.
“You Remind Me of Me” Bias
Another sneaky bias is what we call “affinity bias.” This one makes us trust and like people who remind us of ourselves. It’s a bit like choosing friends who are similar to you. It’s all well and good, but in the workplace, it can lead to teams that lack diversity, which isn’t great for innovation.
Going with the Flow: Conformity Bias
Ever felt the pressure to go along with what the group thinks, even when you disagree? That’s conformity bias, and it’s like peer pressure for grown-ups. It can stifle creativity and critical thinking because we just want to fit in.
The Risks of Unchecked Bias
When we let unconscious bias run the show, it can lead to groupthink, where everyone agrees without really thinking. That’s a recipe for bad decisions and a lack of fresh ideas. Studies show that diverse teams are more innovative, so addressing these biases is essential for success.
Beating Unconscious Bias: Why It’s Worth It
So, how do we tackle unconscious bias? Well, there are plenty of benefits. First off, it helps you build trust and rapport with people. When you’re approachable, others are more likely to share their thoughts and concerns, making teamwork smoother.
No Need to Get Defensive
Talking about bias can make people defensive, but remember, it’s not a personal attack. We all have biases, and recognising them is the first step to change.
Words like “white privilege” can make some folks uncomfortable. But it’s not about being rich or wealthy. It’s about acknowledging that there are certain advantages that come with being part of a dominant group, and it’s important to understand this to address inequality.
Taking on Everyday Sexism
Similarly, when we talk about “everyday sexism,” we’re not saying everyone’s sexist. It’s about recognising how sexism is built into society’s structures and how it affects our lives. It’s about making the world fairer.
Facts and Empathy Matter
Statistics can be a powerful way to illustrate the impact of biases. For example, disabled people often face abuse, and LGBT+ individuals encounter negative comments at work. These facts show why we need to actively address biases.
Listen and Learn
Empathy and listening are key. When someone shares their experiences, really listen and try to put yourself in their shoes. Ask how you can help make things better.
A Handy Tool: The Ally Track
If you’re in a situation where people need help understanding bias, check out the “ally track” from the BBC. It’s a useful resource for sparking discussions and building empathy.
Unconscious bias is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to control us. By recognising these biases and actively working to combat them, we can build trust, cooperation, and a more inclusive world for everyone.
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Mo is an award-winning experienced senior leader and employee engagement expert. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Clock Tower Sanctuary, and Non-Exec Director for Here (Care Unbound), as well as a conference speaker, writer and mentor.