Unconscious Bias: Break out in 3 simple steps [467 words]

If you have ever taken an Implicit Association Test (see post: Our Brains Are Biased), you may have been surprised by your own unconscious bias. I know the first time I took one of these tests, I was pretty taken aback.

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Unconscious Bias Limits Your Potential

Now that you likely have hard evidence of at least one bias, you can imagine how this bias might be shaping your opinions, judgments, decisions, and even your self-identity. You may even choose or avoid certain relationships or experiences as a result of unconscious bias. As icky as that feels right now, there is hope.

You now have the power to make better more rational decisions. You have the power to open yourself to new perspectives, to more varied experiences, and to deeper learning. Entertaining new ideas and innovating is now possible for you. And when your decisions improve, when your perspective expands, when learning takes hold, and when you innovate, you reach your goals faster!

Break the Cycle of Unconscious Bias

Having the power to break out of unconscious bias is one thing. Wielding this power won’t be easy. You will have to recognize your own biases, confront your assumptions, and challenge your beliefs. You may even have to change how you see yourself in order to see others in a new way. It requires honesty, integrity, and vulnerability. This is the work of leaders.

In order to break out, you need just three tools and a lot of practice.

  1. Put yourself on NOTICE:
    First, NOTICE your own responses. You don’t have to judge, or critique, or feel guilty. Just noticing, as if you were observing yourself in the wild, can make a big difference in how you respond over time. Noticing your biases takes away their power over you. Think about what identities, experiences, values, or perceptions may have led you to this type of response.
  2. Then, begin to notice the responses of others. Again, I didn’t say to judge. Just NOTICE. Think about what identities, experiences, values, or perceptions may have led someone to this type of response.
  3. Finally, press your PAUSE button.[1] Once you have practice with noticing, it’s time to break out your next tool: The Pause Button. The Pause Button allows you to think about other valid responses to the same situations, ideas, or people. When you can consider multiple responses, you can choose the best one for the situation at hand. Better responses lead to better decisions.

That’s it. Just three steps to break out of bias and make better decisions. Simple? Yes. Easy? Let me know!

[1] Adapted from Everyday Bias by Howard J. Ross

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Amy C. Waninger Author Bio

Amy C. Waninger is the Founder & CEO of Lead at Any Level, where she improves employee engagement and retention for companies that promote from within. Amy offers assessments, advisory services, and training on essential skills for inclusive leaders. She is the author of eight books. Learn more at www.LeadAtAnyLevel.com

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13 responses to “Unconscious Bias: Break out in 3 simple steps [467 words]”
  1. […] your teams so they are not artificially limiting their own success. Understand your own biases and take steps to overcome them. Let’s all work to ensure that we’re treating ourselves with the same level of respect […]

  2. […] challenge other hiring managers to challenge their biases and find ways to give all applicants a fair chance. Had the hiring manager cited above done just […]

  3. […] you make a decision about your own career, you want to consider the most important factors and make the best choice. If you are a hiring manager, you must also make decisions about other people’s careers. […]

  4. […] White people on social media who said “There must be more this story” were infuriating. Abuse by authority figures is NOT the fault of the abused. Yet time and again, white people assume that authority figures can be trusted because we can usually trust them. We don’t fear for our lives when we get pulled over for speeding. We don’t get “randomly selected” for additional screening. We don’t get denied service or access to public places (unless we’re gay). And so, here we sit, blinded by privilege, wondering why we can’t all just get along. Instead of thinking critically about all the things people of color might have done to contribute to their own abuse, try applying your critical thinking skills to how you form your own assumptions. […]

  5. […] If not, you’re going to limit your ability to engage in inclusive networking. Do some deep reflection on your biases, assumptions, and intentions. Then think about the impact you might be having on the […]

  6. […] can all benefit by educating ourselves on the experience of being different and by opening ourselves up to the value that experience […]

  7. […] 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 […]

  8. […] and why we should change our default settings. I’ve already covered unconscious bias and what to do about it. This article explores the concepts of affinity bias, in-groups, and privilege in a work setting, […]

  9. […] I sat down and reflected on my gut reaction, as I have advised others to do. Then I talked to my straight, white, cisgender male husband about the feelings I had and asked for […]

  10. […] For example, you can learn about giving positive feedback, giving constructive feedback, or overcoming unconscious bias.  Translate what you learn into action. List those successful projects and initiatives among your […]

  11. […] can all benefit by educating ourselves on the experience of being different and by opening ourselves up to the value that experience […]

  12. […] unconscious bias is, you may be thinking, “This feels icky. Make it stop!” Check out Overcoming Unconscious Bias to learn […]

  13. […] unconscious bias is, you may be thinking, “This feels icky. Make it stop!” Check out #LeadAtAnyLevel by Overcoming Unconscious Bias to learn […]

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