You’re at a black tie event. You’re looking for the restroom. Who do you ask?
“Me,” joked our new friend who spontaneously joined us at our table at a recent black-tie-event, jovially laughing at the third time in the last 10 minutes he’d been asked for directions. “It’s hard to be a black man in a tuxedo at a formal event—everyone assumes I work here!”
Which is absolutely ridiculous, when you look around and realize that ALL THE MEN at the event are wearing tuxedos.
Our friend made light of the situation, playfully making fun, but it does belie unconscious bias/prejudice that may accompany first, immediate reactions to others.
So how do you combat your own biases? How do you ‘humanize’ others around you? Just for fun, listen to your gut, and then do or say the exact opposite. Such as…
1. At a very fine event, ask the older woman who’s dressed the best where to find the bathroom (or step out of your comfort zone…ask the person who’s least like you.)
2. At restaurants, events, etc., ask your server’s name—he/she too is a person, and actually has a big influence on your enjoyment of your evening.
3. If you meet someone from Brazil (or fill in country name or neighborhood in City, etc.) don’t say “I would never go Rio, I’ve heard the crime is terrible.” (Yes, it has happened enough that it warrants mentioning.)
4. When speaking with someone with an accent, listen for content. “And treat them like a person, not an accent,” adds my husband, a native Portuguese speaker. And never say “don’t you speak American?” (Yes, I’ve overheard that, too)
What other things have you seen others do (or fess up, what have you done?) that reveal an underlying bias? What was the reaction?