Examining Bias

I used to think….. Spending time researching cultural intelligence, being tuned into my bias and stereotypes that I was aware of my beliefs and assumptions about others.

What I am learning….. Bias and stereotypes can creep in when you least expect it!

A story from this week….

My oldest son has moved to Las Vegas to start his career. My husband, Harrison and I were at breakfast one morning in Vegas and we started debating the ethnicity of our server. I was sure that the server’s nationality was Indian. My husband and son thought Eastern European. We debated this for quite some time each presenting our arguments.

The server it turned out was from Croatia. They were correct and I was wrong. I started wondering why I believed so strongly that I knew her country of origin. Was it hair and skin color? Accent? Behavior? What led me to this conclusion?

This was a bit of an aha for me!

In the article https://hbr.org/2016/01/cultural-differences-are-more-complicated-than-what-country-youre-from Molinksy asserts “We learn about how Germans or Chinese or Italians are different from us — how they think or act or even express emotions in a different way — and we feel like we’ve done our homework. We feel prepared.” This is a VERY narrow view of others. This is a case where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing which can damage relationships and cloud interactions with others. Assuming that an individual’s cultural identity is that of the national culture is close-minded.

Culture is nuanced, layered and interwoven with background, experience, education, personality, language, religion and family. To assume that we know who or even worse what a person is based on their national identity is biased.

This week served as a good reminder to me that we cannot define a person based on culture or what we assume to be their culture. We need to peel back the layers and get to know the person and all of their unique traits, attributes, behaviors and beliefs. We need to check our assumptions and tune into our bias.

Cultural intelligence is a continuous journey and obviously I still have a lot to learn! Come learn with me!

What are you learning?

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