Challenging Our Biases

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘biases’? And what do you think of if you ask yourself what your own biases are?

I think of beliefs that are rooted way down deep inside of so that I might not even be aware of them myself. I think of prejudice and perhaps unfair judgement of others. Even before doing specific research into the topic, I had read enough to know that my biases are most likely assumptions inside of myself that influence how I think, the decisions I make and the way I am bringing up my children. As part of my research into Self-Leadership I have made a conscious effort to learn more and try to understand better.

Biases have been described as prejudices or our pre-conceived judgements and opinions, especially in relation to other people, individuals or groups of individuals. There is a negative connotation and an element of hostility that comes forth from the word biases. Biases have also been described, rather neutrally, as our preferences for one thing, person or group over others. They have also been described as our deep-seated beliefs and assumptions about the world and how it works.  Biases are rooted in the brain’s automated processing system and come from our upbringing, education, experiences and preferences. They are thinking shortcuts and are needed for efficiency for our daily lives. A bias for liberty and freedom over control and intimidation is an example of a bias that can be a guiding hand in our daily lives. Our biases become problematic when they lead to treating other people or ourselves unjustly.

There are numerous cognitive biases that affect us every day. Just to name a few: Confirmation Bias, Groupthink, Dunning-Krüger Effect and In-Group biases. Wikipedia or any number of websites list the many types of cognitive biases.  Our cognitive unconscious biases can lead to discrimination in our decisions along the lines of, for example: ethnic background, culture, race, gender, age, profession and education.

How do we know when our thinking and/or decision-making is impacted, if our biases are unconscious and unknown to us? The first step is to intentionally observe ourselves and understand where our own tendencies are. Self-observation, mindfulness and self-awareness are key elements of Self-Leadership.

How aware are you of your own biases? How do they affect your decision making? What can you do to become more aware of your biases?

One place to start is simply to start with self-observation. Ask yourself daily for a period of time, if and how your decisions that day were influenced by an unconscious bias. You might also start by understanding what some of the most common biases (try: Confirmation Bias) are and ask yourself daily if you demonstrated any in your decision making or thinking during that day. And then try to understand where that tendency comes from. Becoming conscious of our biases is the first place to start. #selfleadership

If you are interested in intentionally working on your own Self-Leadership including your biases, please contact me to find out more about my Self-Leadership program.

The first 30-min session is free of charge. I look forward to meeting you!