What percentage of people stereotype others?
The answer is 100%!
Stereotypes are when we judge an individual based on one characteristic, like their age, race, or job, rather than seeing them as the unique person they are.
Other people stereotype us too.
It's how we respond to these situations that can challenge others to think twice before making a judgement based on a stereotype.
Teach With Facts
Teaching others is one way to challenge stereotypes. This can be as simple as sharing a fact.
Eugene, who is Asian American, has gathered with colleagues to draft a grant proposal.
A team member turns to Eugene: "You should do all the numbers, you'll be best at that."
Eugene has no background in math, and his role doesn't usually involve numbers. He suspects his colleague is basing this suggestion on a stereotype.
To educate his colleague in a professional manner Eugene responds "I am not good with numbers, but I'm happy to take the lead on the writing. I have a masters in communications."
What makes Eugene's response effective?
Corrects colleague's assumptions
It is confrontational
The project can be done properly now
Makes the colleague feel stupid
When you suspect someone might be stereotyping you, ask a question to prompt them to reflect. In some cases, they may not even be consciously aware of their thought process.
Sarah, who identifies as a female, is with a group of friends talking about their dream careers. When Sarah expresses her desire to be a soccer player, her friend Lee says, "Well, that's surprising, I thought you'd say something like an artist or teacher."
Sarah responds, "No, I've always loved soccer. How come you thought I'd want to be an artist or a teacher?"
What was effective about Sarah's question?
A gentle but clear approach
All of these reasons
Lee may reflect on his assumption
Sara will understand Lee's reasoning
Interrupt And Echo
Highly offensive stereotypes should always be interrupted and corrected. Any bystanders should echo the correction to discourage the behaviour from being repeated.
George enters an elevator and sees a Chinese person, Dan, inside. George screams "Stay away I don't want Coronavirus!"
Dan interrupts immediately: "Not all Chinese people have Coronavirus." Others standing nearby repeat the same thing and comment on how ignorant and offensive George's remark is.
What makes Dan's response appropriate?
Hateful stereotypes can never be ignored
Dan was ready to fight
It is an indirect approach
Dan should have ignored the comment
Not all stereotypes are intended to be hateful.
In fact, most are unconscious and unintentional. It's up to each of us to challenge ourselves and others to treat each other as individuals instead of making judgements based on stereotypes.
What stereotypes do people make about you?
Think about the most common one or two assumptions people make about you. Plan out what your 'canned' response will be the next time you experience it. Use facts, ask questions, or interrupt to challenge the behaviour.
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