Author’s note: This article is adapted from my forthcoming book, Network Beyond Bias.
In previous posts, I have explained the nature of unconscious bias and tips for breaking out of default thinking patterns. There is so much more you can do to change your perspective. If you’re ready for a new challenge, focus on changing your behaviors or expanding your perspective even further. Here are some simple suggestions to get you started!
1: Break One Routine Each Day for Two Weeks
In familiar situations, notice your routines. Do you sit at the same booth and order the same dish every time you go to your favorite restaurant? Do you talk to the same people each time you attend a networking event? When you drive to work, do you always take the same route? When you are a creature of habit, your brain’s neuropathways become increasingly fixed, like water that carves a path down a hillside.
For the next ten days, surprise yourself by doing something different or unexpected. Be spontaneous if you can; plan it if you have to. By changing your routines, you develop neuroplasticity. You can literally create new paths for your brain. When you surprise yourself, you break out of “identity thinking.” Instead of being “the kind of person who…”, you can become someone with endless possibilities!
2: Put Yourself in a Brand-New Situation
Within the next 30 days, say “yes” to something you can’t otherwise imagine doing. Attend a cultural event that is completely unfamiliar to you. Go to a cricket game or to the ballet. Attend a religious service outside your own faith. Take a pottery class or karate lesson. Pick anything you’ve never done before, and do it. Bonus points if you do it by yourself!
When you are in a new and unfamiliar situation, you will automatically spend more time observing the responses of others. You will have to rely on total strangers – and totally new perspectives – for social cues about how to dress, act, respond, and interact. When you don’t have preconceived notions about your own responses, you’ll be forced to adopt a different perspective quickly!
3: Read a Book
Reading a book may not sound like groundbreaking advice. After all, books have been around for centuries. Still, for very little cost and even less personal risk, books can help you learn about other views and cultures, develop empathy, and broaden your perspective. Here are some ideas:
- A biography or autobiography about someone unknown to you
- History books or classic literature from another country or culture
- Any book by an investigative journalist that addresses both sides of a controversial issue
- Novels written for another audience, such as young adult fiction
As you read, consider why the main characters make the choices they do. Take note of passages that made you uncomfortable or that you found surprisingly relatable. Ask yourself how the book might be interpreted by someone whose background differs from your own. Consider writing a review of the book to post on Amazon or your own blog. Finally, read the reviews others have written. Try to imagine how they may have come to a different understanding of the same text.