Let’s discuss the difference between stereotype and generalization. Stereotype is when you react to an individual or group in a certain way based on your values, how you were raised, or your association with a particular group based on education, geographical area, or socio-economic background among others. A generalization is your reaction to an individual or group based on your past experience with an individual or group.
A few weeks back, we viewed the clip from Up in the Air:
Is George Clooney’s character racist as his young traveling companion expresses? He says he learned from his mother to stereotype. He says, “It’s faster”. His response to the various people in the security line were generalizations. They was likely based on his past experience. He likely noticed that many times, the line with mostly Asians tended to go faster. So he generalized. Generalizations can help us. They can protect us. But they can also set us up to distance ourselves from people or groups that we don’t need to distance ourselves from.
If you were in line at an ATM and the following people were behind you, how would you react to each?
The first one is a Caucasian, male, biker in full regalia, covered with tattoos, wearing dark sunglasses and has a scowl on his face. The second is a well-groomed, middle-aged, African American man in a suit on a phone call. The third person is a young, Caucasian man listening to music in headphones, dressed in the latest Hip Hop fashion, baggy pants, ball cap, sunglasses, and lots of bling. The fourth person is an elegant Hispanic woman in a business suit. The fifth person is a Caucasian woman dressed in a maid uniform.
What if you changed their race, age, ethnicity, gender, or clothing? Would your reaction be different?
What comes into your mind when I say the following?:
Female project manager
African American Male Project Executive
Indian Female Structural Engineer
Chinese Male Plumbing Contractor
Pakistani Male Estimator
Are there positive and negative generalizations and stereotypes that come into your mind?
How do these mental models affect your interactions with these folks? Have you generalized to the point where you don’t give the individual a fair shake?
Our course on diversity and inclusion explores these mental models and biases and gives you tools to be able to overcome them. And if you want even more resources on emotional intelligence and all of the critical people skills your folks need to succeed, click here for information on our online courses called The Total Leadership Library.
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