I saw a video this morning titled “Millennials Show Us What “Old” Looks Like” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYdNjrUs4NM&feature=youtu.be). While it is hard to hear twenty and thirty somethings say they consider people in their 40’s to be old, it got me to thinking about the conscious and unconscious biases we all have. Spoiler alert: in the video they introduce the millennials to “older” people and they realize some or all of their perceptions of age and what is old were wrong. These biases are about more than just age and can impact your professional and personal network in a negative way.
Think about what crosses you mind when you are at a restaurant and a gentleman at the table next to you has an earring or a woman has a nose ring, or someone has sleeve of tattoos on their arm. Some of you are thinking “why would they do that to themselves” or “they clearly aren’t on a professional business track.” Others are thinking nothing at all because to you it is within the range of norms for people you know or deal with. The difference in perception may be because of your age, how you were raised or something else in your background. But the person you may think has a low level or blue collar type job may be a doctor, a nurse, an investment advisor, own a successful business, etc.
What comes into your mind first is unconscious, and we all do have biases, whether we admit it or not. Making assumptions without knowing someone is problematic on many levels. By doing so, you may avoid a person at a social or business event who may be a great connection for you or someone you would connect with on a personal level. And remember, everyone has these biases and it may cause them to avoid you too.
So what can you do about this? Truly try to be more open minded and embrace other’s differences. Next time you have an opportunity, start a conversation with the person you usually would avoid. The worst that can happen is they are not interesting or a good connection. If so, it is easy to say “nice to have met you” and move on. It is better to waste a few minutes than miss an opportunity.
I always say “if we were all the same the world would be a boring place.” I believe that to be true. Branch out beyond your norm or comfort zone and see what happens!