– It’s not your fault that you have bias.

– It’s not your fault that our culture acclimates us to preferences in one direction over other

– It’s not your fault that everything that we read, everything that we see, media consumption is not in our control and not necessarily correct

– It’s not your fault that influences from family, friends, institutions, are biased by nature as people get information from them with a premise that it’s for our good.

– But, it can be your fault if having a preference may stop you from exploring equally great possibilities, and even people, that you aren’t even aware about.

All the above preferences, influences, information gets stored in our brains since childhood. Over time they start making mental shortcuts based on person and situation that we call ‘Unconscious Bias’. Now bias itself is just the preference of one thing over another and is just a function of the human condition. If we were not able to make those shortcuts, we wouldn’t quickly make decisions and consequently wouldn’t navigate life easily. E.g we will not put her hand over a flame cause we know we will get burnt, we will necessarily duck our head if we see a flying object coming towards. Bias is an essential survival mechanism.

Most bias is harmless, if it’s for a particular colour, food, place or car. But it can become tricky if we have bias about people. Our brains don’t break the habit of categorizing people and things using mental shortcuts. Some of this information leads to stereotypes which if left unchecked, can cause us to inadvertently push people away.

Positive bias can be just as harmful as a negative bias. It pushes us towards one thing/people and away from the other. That can lead people feeling included or excluded depending on which side of the bias one falls on – eg. more focus on gender programs alienates the men in the organization.

So how can we confront our own biases and allow our self the freedom to encounter new experiences?

The process of overcoming bias starts with ‘Us’.  This can be honed with self-awareness, attention and effort. We need to start noticing our own bias by

  1. Paying attention on how we treat people
  2. Asking questions to our self if we ‘feel’ included or excluded
  3. Observing what triggers an emotion in us

We need to start creating authentic relationships which have a certain humility that starts with ‘I want to look at this in a new light’. It requires a willingness to suspend current beliefs and learnings. It also stems from an appreciation of our own incapacity to understand all things that we think we know.

If we can achieve the above then we can truly say we lead an unbiased life .

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Rashmi Mandloi

Rashmi Mandloi leads diversity & inclusion for Biz Divas in South Asia. She is recognized as a thought leader on diversity matters and inclusive leadership across the Indian subcontinent. She looks through the world with an eye on understanding the nuances of bias, beliefs and thoughts to enable change and Inclusion.

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