“I have this awesome African American friend named Ty. He’s a really smart guy…went to Harvard. He is so well spoken. You all should meet him some day.”
Completely lovely intro of me, right?
Wait…why did he call me “African American?” Why didn’t he just call me a black man? Or just a friend? Why did he qualify my intelligence by mentioning Harvard? Does he do this with everyone he introduces?
Welcome to us. Not just my friend. Most of us humans.
For such a smart species, we’re not only dark, we’re not only omitters (aka liars), we’re not only negative and in our heads more than we’re not, we are squirmy about an inordinate amount.
From poop to politics, salary to sex, we are an awkward lot and awkward about a lot.
Worse. We’re stuck in the mire of what we were born into and, because of our habitual nature, we seemingly can’t break out. Most of us don’t know how to communicate between cultures, let alone between ages, genders, sexual preferences, body types, and socio-economic status. We have, over time, unlearned how to connect, love, understand, and accept our differences. If you take a good look at your community, at your office, sure, we want to be free from all prejudices, biases, microaggressions, etc., but have we truly broken the barriers?
I have (-ish). Well, unless you count the time…
I was on a plane waiting for it to depart when a person of Middle Eastern descent came and sat right by me. In my head, I was like “OH SHIT! I hope nothing goes wrong.” OK. Truth be told, it (my negative inner dialogue) went a little further, it went something like this:
- Try not to make eye contact with him.
- Does he have luggage?
- Who doesn’t have a carry on these days?!
- I knew I should have taken the earlier flight.
- No sleeping for me.
Sure, I heard it. But I certainly couldn’t explain it or justify it. My head was such an ass! This was many years after 9/11 and I was STILL in this mind-frame…unconsciously.
And that is how unconscious bias works.
Our brains try to connect the dots between previous experiences and future outcomes.
This in itself is biased. I mean, what the hell was I thinking? How ignorant could I possibly be? In that moment, I had a choice to make – I could allow that unconscious bias to drive my actions, or I could challenge my integrity to see if I was really living true to my highest values.
At Handel Group, among many other things, we teach our clients how to listen closely to their inner dialogue to determine if it’s driving actions which produce suboptimal results. We also teach clients how to do what we call a ‘talkback’ to their negative inner dialogue, which, simply put, means identifying all the lies, bad theories, and exaggerations in their thoughts and then talking back to it from the voice of their highest self (the one that is working for our dreams), retelling a more unbiased story that will lead us to the results they desire.
Once hearing what my head was up (or down) to, I could choose the second option, a conscious and designed one that forwarded my dream of who I wanted to be as a human.
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Here’s what happened next…
I engaged the gentleman in conversation. We talked for hours during the flight, to the point where I had to apologize for monopolizing his time (perhaps he wanted to sleep or read a book or enjoy a tiny packet of free pretzels, on a good day). But I couldn’t help it. Once I let my highest self drive my actions, I just became so fascinated by what he shared with me about his life and his culture.
Had I allowed my unconscious bias to hijack (did you smirk?) the day, not only would I have justified a calm-my-“nerves”-drink on the plane or two(!), I would have lost out on the opportunity to connect with another human, be proud of myself, nail my lower self, learn, grow, and be edified.
What if in order to heal bias in our lifetime, we ALL not only have to understand it, we have to get radically honest about it, hear it for what it is, and who we often are unconsciously by default?
In other words, see the not-so-fine fine print on our species’ packaging: We’re often an unconscious, prejudice, biased, theorizing, justifying, exaggerating, omitting, blaming, excusing, etc. species.
Truth is, here at HG we have no shame about our dark side and what we’re unconsciously biased about. In fact, we believe it’s our purpose (higher-self speaking here) to shine a light on all of our awkwardness (mine included), deal with it, get honest about it, and put in the right promises and practices to live true to our highest ideals for ourselves.
Personally, by bringing these biases to the forefront of my consciousness and measuring them against my highest values, I was able to take them on and down in order to be my best self.
Isn’t that something we should all strive for, quickly?!
From one smart friend/human to another.
Very TRUE-ly yours,