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Admit it. You’re Biased.

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Which groups or ideologies do you identify with? For example, I am a left-handed, diabetic, Jewish person from the South Side of Chicago who roots for the White Sox. I will also fiercely defend the superiority of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza to my secondary pizza preference—a piping hot New York City “dollar slice.”

Whenever I meet someone with any of the above characteristics we have almost instant compatibility.  For example, when I meet someone with diabetes, we can instantly become engaged in deep, personal conversations about weight, eating, exercise, medications, and yes, even sex.

I have lived in New York for several decades. In New York, it is acceptable to get into heated debates about Chicago-style versus New York pizza, whether the White Sox or Mets are the worst team, and whether left-handers are uniquely gifted.

However, a fear of offending people and ruffling feathers has recently shifted towards political correctness and partisanship. General topics such as occupation and school background are acceptable. The untouchable topics are religion, ethnicity, politics, physical attractiveness, and much more. Men and women can tell someone how smart or athletic they are but not how great they look (positives are more acceptable than negatives).

How do stereotypes help or harm people?

One obvious characteristic of communication is the perception of the presenter and the environment. I am extremely jealous of anyone who gave a TED talk.  Better appearance, clearer communication, pleasant environment, and respect for the presenter affects the audience’s acceptance of communication. This is one of the rationales for using celebrities or experts in advertising.

It is recognized that first impressions are made within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone. That is why it is so important to understand stereotypes and use it to your advantage rather than distracting or offending people.

For example, you can attempt to find and utilize common areas. A recent study showed that teacher were more effective with students with common demographics like sex and race. Teachers can use that information to find the best academic fit when they are seeking employment.

Know Your Goals and their perceptions … and it’s not just content. In many cases it seems the goal is to bore the audience with unengaging content that puts your audience to sleep without ever really understanding their needs Rather you need to consider your “Goal”; whether it’s selling a product, developing a relationship, impressing the audience, etc. and how it will be perceived .

Have you ever judged a book by its cover and been fooled? I’d especially love to hear about how stereotypes have helped develop more effective messaging.

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