Outsmarting Our Own Human Biases

new UK study suggests that working from home could lead to an increase in racism and other forms of prejudice. The study suggests that these workplace friendships are a key to breaking down misconceptions in our thinking, and building our own understanding of community. Siloed and isolated as many of us are in our home workspaces, we don’t see and interact with the wide range of people that we may be used to in more traditional work settings.

And yet, with the commitment to building authentic community that so many of us hold, this time simply provides a different challenge than we’ve experienced in the past. We simply have to be more purposeful about being exposed to life experiences and perspectives that help to shape and add nuance to our own way of looking at the world. So in a time when some of the challenges of building authentic community are magnified, what steps can you take to become more aware of – and fight – your own prejudices?

This Week’s Tips:

  1. Seek to recognize your biases. Harvard University’s Implicit Association Tests are a great way to understand and raise awareness of your own biases in a number of different areas: gender; religion; skin-tone; weight; sexuality; and many more. Each test takes 10-15 minutes to complete, and can be eye-opening. Try taking one or more this week, especially in an area you may not think about much.
  2. Accept – and challenge – your limitations. We are all biased. In the modern world, our body’s send 11 millions bits of information to our brain each second, and yet our slowly-evolving brains can only consciously process 50 of them. So our brains make millions of short-cuts per second. Take steps to slow down your sensory input, allowing your brain to become more consciously aware of the decisions it’s making. For more resources on understanding and challenging your limitations, visit Outsmarting Human Minds.
  3. Create space for change. Seek out life stories that are very different from your own, through memoirs, historical fiction, movies, music, artwork, and other works of creation. Engage to seek understanding of the stories reflected by the artists behind the work. How does that help you to reflect on you own life experiences?
  4. Engage with others! You may not be in a physical workspace together with your colleagues, but the informal conversations and relationships can still happen; they just take a little more intentionality. Schedule group lunches or coffee breaks over Zoom with a no-work conversation policy. Use some of the ice-breaker questions we include in this email each week, and/or simply give space for people to share what’s going on in their lives outside of work. Afterwards, reflect on what people shared, and how that helps you to think about things going on in your own life.

As you work to fight your own prejudices and build community during periods of isolation, let us know how it goes in our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you!

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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