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The one thing stopping you from making better decisions

It’s been several years since your last dodgeball game in the high school gym, but you may remember it like it was yesterday. Nervous energy hangs in the air during those moments when the captains choose their teams. No one wants to be picked last.

Human nature is at play, compelling Captain Kim to choose Mark instead of you. Maybe it’s Mark’s athletic ability, or maybe it’s because he lives on Kim’s street and she is more familiar with him. Kim’s unconscious bias drives her toward one classmate over another. For the person whom Kim picks last, it might sting a little.

Without realizing it, every day in our professional lives, we make choices similar to Kim’s. It’s not always pleasant for everyone involved. All humans have a hardwired need to belong. If we don’t check our unconscious bias and unknowingly show favoritism, we risk alienating our colleagues and staff. That can affect engagement, productivity and team cohesion.

The good news is that you can train yourself to become mindful of your unconscious bias and strengthen your relationships in and out of the office. Try this practice I call the Three Rs.

  • Recognition: In this phase, you identify the feelings you’re having when faced with a decision. Is it frustration, fear or confusion? Empathy, pity or camaraderie? Or maybe it’s as simple as preference? Your goal with recognition is to understand your emotions so that you can observe them.
  • Reflection: Feelings are temporary, so before taking any action, in the reflection phase, you want to pause. This gives you a chance to really assess what’s affecting you. Process the emotions and ask yourself what those emotions mean and why you’re feeling them. What is driving you to feel the way you feel?
  • Response: Now, in the response phase, you’re ready to make a mindful choice about how to act. When you’re responding, make the conscious decision to take the best action. That is, do the right thing. Choose a person using inclusiveness, make a healthy choice for your wellness or behave in the most ethical way the situation allows.

You can use this practice in a number of ways, from teaching and supporting children to coaching staff to help them feel they belong. You can even use it before making the decision between eating a sugary treat and a healthy one. In any of these circumstances, you can challenge your unconscious bias and broaden your own thinking.

Join me for an in-depth discussion of unconscious bias and the mindfulness techniques you can use to enrich your personal and professional lives and elevate your team and colleagues.Register for Your Brain is Good at Inclusion… Except When It’s Not (Understanding Unconscious Bias), broadcasting Wednesday, February 21, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. ET.

Dr. Steve L. Robbins, founder and owner of S.L. Robbins and Associates, a consulting firm on issues of human behavior based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Woman thinking image courtesy of Shutterstock.



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