Approximately one year ago, I attempted to host a distinctive program for new moms, including myself, that encouraged health. Originally, it began as a weight loss support group, but I used some of my clinical learning experiences to present unique ideas in order to help the women add awareness to their programs.
Each week I would pick a new topic with 3 parts which included definitions, past experiences and new experiment with an additional follow-up. The theory was exciting, but I forgot my golden rule; know your playing field. The program lasted a mere few weeks, but I learned a great deal from the process. There is one particular way I keep learning from this.
One week I decided to find a personality test for the women to use to access how they best interact with the world. I found a test that gauged behavioral style, called The Platinum Rule. I found this test on Dr. Tony Alessandraâ€™s website. Dr. Alessandra does not have his PhD in psychology, but rather marketing. If you really think about it in terms of relationships, are they so different?
While I was there taking the test, I also signed up for his 52 week email series offering self-improvement tips. I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality and helpfulness offered in these emails. At the very least, they have brought topics back into focus.
I received one today entitled, Tolerance. Tolerance means you’re open to acknowledging, allowing and respectful of opinions and practices that are different from your own, as it is defined in the email. The email then goes on to talk about how stereotyping influences tolerance. Here is an excerpt, including some questions about stereotyping based on a training program developed by Barbara Walker, a prior manager of international diversity at Digital Equipment Corporation.
I’ll try a few of the questions with you. I’ll start a sentence and you finish it with three or four descriptive adjectives. Just let the words come. Don’t try to censor them. Ready?
Native Americans are ________
African Americans are ________
White people are ________
Hispanics are ________
Asian Americans are ________
People with a Texas accent are ________
People from California are ________
People who don’t finish high school are ________
People with AIDS are ________
People who stutter are ________
Men with long ponytails are ________
Did you discover that you’re holding some negative stereotypes about certain groups of people?
I actually answered these questions with very little stereotyping except the question concerning Asian Americans, to which I answered â€œsmart.â€ Sure, itâ€™s not a negative stereotype, but it IS a stereotype.
Stereotypes affect our decision making process, and can be destructive in building relationships. A positive stereotype could project a characteristic that is not accurate, creating a barrier to authenticity. Therefore, I believe that even positive stereotypes can affect tolerance, though the effects are at the other end of the spectrum.
The remainder of the email concentrates on how to overcome negative stereotyping by first recognizing that stereotyping comes from past behavior, and from being taught about other people and their differences apart from ourselves. Whatâ€™s important to realize is that even though negative stereotyping may affect relationships that more negatively, positive stereotyping can also be an obstruction in building relationships.