Some days I get tired of sorting data and opinions. Truth of it is, my own thoughts make me weary, now add to that social media, 24-7 news, and constant chatter, ~ it’s overwhelming. And ironic. I am energized through human connection ~ and it depletes me. What a conundrum!
So, what creates the fatigue? Is it the heightened enthusiasm and frequency we encounter opposing perspective? Is there a difference between opinion and prejudice? How can the topic and focus of Diversity & Inclusion possibly become more than a corporate strategy? Can it be more? Perhaps, if we decide to get out of our own way.
Have you ever shared an experience only to have your story hijacked by the opinions of the people who were targeted to be your audience? Fascinating! How does your story get side-lined for the rant? It happens so quickly. And now it’s everywhere!
Our world is more inter-connected and disconnected than ever. Change is constant and swift. When we emerge from our thoughts, we encounter a fast-paced, head-strong, and vocal world… the single space we all share and belong… but where?
And so, it begins. . . the people-sorting. The business of categorizing, containing, and organizing. Defining demographics. Identifying distinguishing characteristics so we can somehow align like qualities with our preferred labels. The labels may be helpful to some, but not all. Labeling is also ground zero for bias that can cultivate prejudice. . . Even in the most educated and kind-hearted people.
Prejudice is a fixed mindset with omniscient qualities. It tricks the mind into thinking it “knows” truth. It’s rigid, one-dimensional and does not shift. A shift is fluid, prejudice is unbending. How is it that as humans, full of life and infinite potential we enslave ourselves to the burden of prejudice? Why do we continue doing it? And how does this one-sided view lead to a better life, business, government or world?
Stop! Before posturing for defense to reassure yourself that you “don’t have a prejudice bone” in your body, don’t. . . Instead, pause. . . Mindfully observe. The very nature of the thought IS biased. We all have some degree of prejudice: opinion, intolerance, predisposition, bias, partisanship, etc. What we do with it determines the quality of our experience and available opportunities within our reach.
One way to open possibilities is to Park Your Prejudice. It’s an exercise I include at the beginning of corporate training. It invites reflection and increased self-awareness. You are invited to give the exercise a try; for an hour or longer. You don’t need anyone else to participate with you or know you are doing it. You decide. Give the exercise at least one chance and see what happens.
Park Your Prejudice Activity:
- Matchbox/small car or a picture of a car/vehicle
- Post-it notes
- Ziplock bag
What to Do:
- Decide how long you are willing to park/suspend your prejudice. (i.e. 1 hour, until lunch, during the entire meeting, etc.)
- Select your car/vehicle.
- Think about your (unbending) beliefs, that tend to disrupt conversations. Include them if you only think them or if they distract you from listening to what is being said. (Opinions, personal rule-book, etc.)
- Write one belief per note.
- Keep writing for 5 minutes.
- Place your car in the Ziploc bag.
- Place your post-its beliefs with the car in the bag.
- Close your Ziploc.
- Park your vehicle-notes bag in the box.
- Take a deep breath and allow those beliefs to stay parked until (the time you decided.)
What shift do you experience when you give yourself permission to get out of your own way and park your prejudice? What could happen if we did this into one hour each day? We will never know unless we begin and invite the shift.
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” ~Mary Oliver