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.”
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.
• 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.