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What is unconscious bias?

An unconscious (or implicit) bias is an instinctive reaction to a person or situation that comes from learned stereotypes. These social prejudices can be based around race, gender and social taboos.

Because we are not aware of our own unconscious biases, it can be a challenge to find ways of addressing them. For us to become more open minded and empathetic as a society, it is important to consider how we respond to people and [how best to be inclusive.]

Identifying

We all naturally have unconscious biases because our society unfairly values some attributes above others. Becoming self-aware begins by noticing when you have an impulsive reaction to a person, and taking a moment to consider the thought. What is it about that person that has made you react so instantly? When you catch these thoughts, rather than feel guilty about your bias, you can begin work on changing them.  

Listen

If someone calls you out on something that you have said or done, be receptive to what they are saying. Whilst you may not understand what you did, or even have noticed that you were doing it, an important way of changing your biases is through listening. Unconscious bias naturally occurs under the radar, so when it is called to your attention it can seem like the person flagging it is overreacting. Rather than dismiss this person’s feelings, allow them the time to explain how they have been affected.

Consider

Is what you are thinking something that you believe, or something you have been conditioned to think? If you can’t trace the logic behind your thought process, it might be learned behaviour. Rather than being reactive to a situation, take the time to consider where (and who) your response is coming from.

Change

Admit that you have a bias. Everybody is affected by the society in which they live, and that is okay. We need to put in the work to be the best people we can be within that context. Educate yourself by engaging with people, books and films that are diverse and different to what you have experienced. Ask people you trust to call you out on your biases when they see them.

Lead by example

Take on responsibility to unlearn your own biases. While it is not up to you to educate others, you can lead by example by actively being inclusive to minorities and displaying a growth mindset. You may find that calling someone out can make them defensive, so it may not always produce the result you would like. It is our responsibility as a society to become more inclusive and more understanding to others’ experiences. By challenging your own biases and questioning our social conditioning, you are setting an example for others to follow.

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