Make an Effort, Not an Excuse!

Locker Room Talk in the Women’s and What to Do When you Hurt Someone

What Affects our Behavior?

Everything you do and every decision you make is affected by where “your head is at” in that moment. Are you rested, relaxed and mindful? Are you stressed and simultaneously thinking about other things? Beyond knowledge and your state of mind, there are filters “blurring your vision” and making your decision subjective.  These filters are like a blind spots, sometimes called unconscious bias, and can be a result of something you learned as a child, or something you were told and interpreted as an absolute truth. They can be caused by a myth, how you were brought up, or a recent experience that has changed how you perceive a person or a situation.

Good or Bad

The filters or unconscious bias are not negative in themselves, but the effects of them can be. They can also be good and have positive effects. If you were brought up being told that all people have something good in them, you may unconsciously seek for the good in every person you meet. The filters are not constant, they may change and be triggered by the situation (who you are with) and environment (where you are). Even when you think you know your biases/filters you may be caught off guard.

Locker room talk – Becoming aware of one of my filters

My sister and I were in a locker room in Sweden last winter. Both of us tend to speak loudly and I was going on about how swollen my eyes were when I woke up. “I looked like a Chinese person!” I exclaimed. Around the bench comes a Swedish woman with Asian features. She places herself right in front of me and asks, “What do you mean by a “Chinese person”, what do we look like?”. I wanted to sink through the floor. Where did this comment of mine come from? I would think about that later and try to sort the immediate situation out first. This was about her, not about me. This was about respecting her, and understanding her, and how my comment had made her feel. Simply apologizing was not going to be enough. How would I want someone who has insulted me to address it?

  1. Apologize sincerely.
  2. Thank them for standing up and speaking up!
  3. Try to understand how it made them feel, and if you don’t understand and there is time, ask them.
  4. Make sure you learn from your mistake and when you have time, reflect on where the filter/bias came from so you can deal with it at a deeper level.
  5. Thank them again for not being silent.

Later as I have reflected on what caused me to blurt out this phrase, I have understood that the filter came from when I was a child growing up in Sweden. Most Swedes where blond and blue eyed in the 70s. I was different because I didn’t have blue eyes. We had a childish rhyme about Asians showing physical features generalizing how Asian people “look”. Understanding this or saying I meant no harm is not an excuse. The experience I had was humbling and awakening. Becoming aware of our unconscious bias and filters, triggered by situations or whatever, makes us a little bit less stupid.

Control your Biases

Until the day when there technology that will let you see things with a different lens, and from another persons perspective, the only thing you can do is to become more aware of what your filters and biases are. You don’t have to analyze or try to understand where they come from, unless you are interested, but knowing what they are and when they are triggered will help you greatly. As you react to a prompt, a question, or a situation – try to be mindful instead of “reacting”. Taking a step back, or a breath, will not take more than a moment – and changes how we act or decide. Think before speaking. Make your decision as objectively as you know how, ask others with a different view than yours what they think, and try to be aware of filters triggered by where you are and who you are with. Everybody can do this. It takes some practice, because we are so trained to respond, react, decide immediately. When it comes to actions or decisions related to health, business or other people, I promise that more awareness around your filters will pay off in the long run.

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with Eva Helén – Speaker, Coach, and Author 

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