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Unconscious bias may be the biggest (and least examined) reason why so much inequality exists in the workplace, despite the equality measures enshrined in law. Involuntary prejudices, developed in our unconscious mind from an early age, affect every area of our lives, including the ability to communicate clearly with those around us.
Here we examine the phenomenon of unconscious bias, and its effects on the way we think, act and communicate, and we’ll also look at how to influence your subconscious mind.
One of the areas in which equality laws are tightest is that concerning race equality. Yet empirical evidence suggests that racial biases influence decisions in most aspects of life. Examples of this include:
Studies have shown that such bias starts to form at an early age, resulting in stereotyping, and leading to unintentional protective and discriminatory behaviors against perceived negative stereotypes.
Unconscious bias also affects the way in which you communicate with others. In particular, your nonverbal communication can give away your underlying bias, making those against whom you are unconsciously biased lose confidence. This can result in those people performing less well than they might, causing productivity to fall and revenue to suffer. Ultimately, this is damaging to your career.
If you are aware of your unconscious bias, you do have the ability to control your behaviors. There are three steps to take to shape how you act and communicate to first reduce and then negate the impact of your unconscious biases.
The first step is to be aware of your unconscious bias. Only when you are self-aware can you then act to correct your negative actions. Being aware of your biases empowers your ability to watch for them, and thus makes it less likely that you will make unconscious decisions or communicate ineffectively.
Realization that an unconscious bias is shaping your actions allows you to develop strategies to act consciously when making decisions and communicating with others. There are several ways that you may act more consciously.
One of these strategies is ‘priming’: imbedding a memory when one activity unconsciously impacts subsequent behaviors. By self-priming to areas of unconscious bias, you will become more conscious of your actions. Your decision-making process will become more conscious.
For example, when meeting someone for the first time, you may ask yourself: if that person reminds you of someone you know; if you have made any assumptions about them; and if those assumptions are based upon pre-conceived thoughts or on actual evidence.
Asking yourself such questions makes you think and act more consciously. Instead of making snap decisions, you will slow down, consider the situation more objectively, and benefit from improved decision making unhindered by unconscious bias.
You may also consider the way in which you structure meetings, ensuring that you encourage participation and that they are more inclusive in nature.
Finally, make yourself accountable for your behaviors. Seek feedback from your subordinates, your peers, and your superiors, and act on the feedback you receive. Undertake to improve your self-awareness and emotional intelligence: the key to communicating consciously.
Contact Primeast today to discover how to develop and embed effective leadership communication and interpersonal skills in your leadership armory.
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