Unconscious bias. Universally unexpected. Usually.

I have various unconscious biases.

An obvious example would be that I did not see anything unusual about the room mostly full of besuited, white, middle aged men in a meeting at my work. I didn’t understand why my female colleague was intimidated. “But they are all nice guys…”  I explained completely missing the point.  When I first started my counsellor training, a couple of female colleagues admitted later that they had assumed I was not serious about seeking a career in counselling as “it’s not a proper job”.

The point is we all have unconscious bias.  Essentially, we make judgments about situations based on assumptions held in our subconscious. BUT, I hear you cry, if we don’t realise that we are doing it, how then can we guard against it?

I would make the point we can’t eliminate unconscious bias.  However, what we can do is accept that unconscious bias is there and try and be aware of how it affects your behaviour.  It makes it sound like standing in an addicts meeting and admitting you have an issue. “Hello everyone, my name is Bob and I have unconscious bias…”.

Be curious – Why did you react to such a way?  Did you get upset?  Alternatively, why is it not a big deal for you? Did the other person seem uncomfortable? Ask, don’t shelter behind words like “I just say it like it is”, “I don’t suffer fools gladly” (who does?!), “I’m a straight talker” etc, which are socially ‘acceptable’ ways of trying to close down the conversation without any further discussion.

Try to be a bit kinder and ask yourself why.  Hopefully you’ll become more aware of your assumptions, positive and negative and the effect on yourself and others.

Easy to say, less easy to do!


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