Implicit or unconscious biases affect not just what we do, say and perceive about others, but also how we hear and perceive things about ourselves.
We know that hidden biases can affect our perceptions of others and our actions towards others. But when we say we all have biases, it means we also have biases affecting how we hear things and how we perceive we are being perceived and treated by others.
Our biases affect both sides of a communication, including our perception of how we are being seen and treated.
I’ve had moments when something was said to me that was deeply hurtful and no matter how much the offending party said it wasn’t their intent to be hurtful, it mattered zero to me. The effect on the listener is paramount. But when I looked at why it hurt so much, there was usually something about my own assumptions involved. Our own experiences make us predisposed to interpret things a certain way, giving each new experience or communication less of a fair chance at an unbiased interpretation. We all have this filter. It’s not about getting rid of it but about realizing it’s there and not jumping to assumptions about the intentions of others too quickly.
So before we react to something we take offense at, let’s examine how we might be hearing it, and why. It might still be offensive, but we will have a better understanding of why and be better equipped to address it. After all, we would appreciate the same consideration when we make an inadvertently offensive comment as well.
When you hear or read words like “we need to be open to different perspectives,” do you instinctively think:
💭 Yes, I need to be more open to listening to different perspectives. Or
💭Yes, people need to be more open to listening to my perspective and that of people who think like me. Or
💭Yes, other people need to be more open to listening to other people’s perspectives. I already do so. 👍🏼
🧠 We tend to think others have more biases than we do or are less aware of their biases than we are. This is a cognitive bias called the bias blind spot. So it’s interesting to see what our gut reactions are to this question. Do we tend to think it applies more to others than ourselves? After all, we tend to be more open-minded than others too. 😉
Even perspective is a matter of perspective.
For results on a survey I conducted asking people about their experiences with changing or challenging perspectives, please visit the “Research” page.