Archive for April 2012

I Was a Victim of Stereotyping . . . and It Hurt!

I don’t often share personal experiences in my blogs but this time I will.

I often provide workshops on diversity and sensitivity training, and one of the modules explores stereotyping. I use an exercise called “Release the Stereotype You Have of Others” from Clyde W. Ford’s Book, “We Can All Get Along.”

"We Can All Get Along, 50 Steps You Can Take To End Raciscm" is an excellent resource by author / speaker Clyde W. Ford

Webster’s dictionary defines stereotyping as “forming a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion.” That includes denying the individuality of a person and jumping to conclusions about them.

Admittedly, as a white male in the US, I rarely am a personal victim of stereotyping. That does sometimes make it hard to teach about something painful that I may not experience often myself. But very recently I was a victim of being stereotyped, and it hurt.

I will speak in generalities since I do not wish to divulge the identity of the offending party. It began as I was trying to reach out to a regional leader of an organization I am involved with and a member of. One of the concerns I wanted to express is that a number of simple questions that I had called in or e-mailed to the organizational headquarters had gone unanswered.

When my request for contact got to the correct person, their initial reply to me was a curtly worded e-mail about how the organization is unable to promote the services of one consultant over another. When I received the e-mail, I was shocked! The person assumed that because I was a private consultant, that I was a cut-throat, aggressive operative who was only interested in how the organization could promote my business. And this was an organization I pay dues to and had performed community service with on multiple occasions. No “thank you,” no “how are you;” instead just an attack based upon a stereotypical view of me as a consultant. I truly felt insulted and minimalized as a person and as a professional.

The good news is that I shared my feelings with the offending party and we cleared up the misunderstanding.

Two recommendations:
• Do not stereotype. View each person you interact with as a unique individual.
• Don’t jump to conclusions about someone’s agenda based on their demographics. Ask first before responding or interacting.

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