Get Out of the Zone

November 1, 2016 | Dialogue, Diversity & Inclusion, Overcoming Bias

Wow, my head is spinning! It seems everywhere I turn people are accusing others of having bias against a group not their own. It doesn’t matter whether that bias is against people of a different race, religion or sexual orientation. And then the people doing the accusing — in almost the same breath — talk as if they are not biased at all.

News Flash!!!!

We’re all biased! It’s part of being human.

Good News!!!!

You can conquer the biases that get in the way of building authentic relationships with people who are different from you.

It’s much easier to build relationships with those who think like you and act like you – your in-group.

But what about those out-groups?

They don’t share your history and maybe they come from a different neighborhood. Does that make them hard for you to trust?

Instead of focusing on differences, try finding similarities.

Someone from a different culture may share your sports team preferences or political views. Have you ever questioned your beliefs and values? Are they really yours or are your in-groups controlling your decisions? Remember you are an individual first.

How can you discover your assumptions?

So often we are shaped by the context of our lives. In our new book Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences, Matthew Freeman and I suggest an activity we call Get Out of the Zone.

Find a place where you will be in the minority.

Perhaps there is a festival focused on a different neighborhood or culture. Journal your thoughts, feelings and conversations. It can be very eye opening, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. But feeling like you can’t hide in the crowd can give you a chance to get past yourself and experience life from a different perspective. It can help you expand your in-group.

Can expanding your in-group really help you overcome bias?

Research on unconscious bias is relatively new and research on overcoming it is newer still. While more is needed, the path toward de-biasing seems fairly clear: allowing yourself to interact with a variety of different people can at least temporarily decrease your implicit bias.

Meet people where they are.

Move out of your comfort zone and into theirs. This is a great way to experience other people’s sincerity and to let them experience yours.