Unconscious Bias Could Be Holding You Back

16 November, 2017

Think about something you’re attached to. Let’s say it’s your reputation for being a great speaker, or the results from your banting diet, or your love of cats.

You work hard at it. You pride yourself on it. In fact, your personal brand hinges on it. You ‘get’ other first class speakers, or LCHF enthusiasts. You share cat videos. You have that “insider” glow.

Feels good, right?

Let’s say you have an ambition to be on the TEDx stage to talk about your banting journey. Let’s face it, you’re an expert on replacing carbs with all variations of cauliflower. Added to this, you exercise multiple times a week, and pride yourself on getting all your Discovery watch points by Tuesday.

You’re not in competition with anyone else, you do it for yourself. It satisfies you.

Then you get paired up with a TEDx speaking coach who has a loyalty card for The Creamery, which she uses every day. I mean, c’mon people, no-one could possibly want that much caramel-popcorn flavoured ice-cream. Doesn’t she know what she’s doing to herself?

She must be weak-willed. And probably single. Is what unconsciously tell yourself. How is she EVER going to add value to my work?

Or maybe you’ve been assigned to work with a person or colour, or someone with a disability, or different religious beliefs. What judgments do you unconsciously hold against them?

We all do it.

Our unconscious biases stem from the fundamental beliefs and values we were raised on. They’re not our fault, just our downfall.

Here’s why: whatever you’re attached to is the doorway for your personal bias.

Physiologically, when we’re attached to something – be it values or outcome – we shut down a part of our brain that sees other possibilities. We become fixed on our ideas and what we know is right. Teenagers are good at this. They know everything. Every time a teenager says “I know” they’re literally cutting neural pathways. Same with you. Every time you disregard what someone is saying based on your own unconscious bias, you’re closing yourself to solutions and possibilities.

“That Creamery lady is not going to be able to tell me anything about speaking because she eats ice cream. And I don’t. And I know how to make pizza out of cauliflower.”

This also happens when we judge ourselves. Take impromptu speaking for example, or any situation where you feel put on the spot. You know you have the information somewhere inside you, but the moment you perceive you’re being judged, even by yourself, you can’t access it. You shut down. Your thinking is impaired. And then you double judge yourself later thinking about all the things you should have said but didn’t.

So, if you want to be more productive and more successful, I invite you to observe what you’re attached to – what you hold dear. Nurture your neural pathways, don’t destroy them. As I deferentially suggest to my teenage boys, when you feel that judgment coming up inside you, instead of saying “I know” say “Hmm, that’s interesting” and then you can choose a level of awareness that comes from a place of power, not fear.

Who knows, maybe you’ll let me send you the link to my favourite cat videos.

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.