We live, work, and learn among diverse social groups, and accepting others is important for everyone’s well-being. Yet, most of us are unaware of our biases, stereotypes and prejudices about those who are different from us, which can be shaped by our background, experience, media and family and friends. These unconscious biases can trigger unintentional, but hurtful, attitudes or behaviors. Here are some ways to become aware of your biases, break them down, and become more accepting.
Be aware of distasteful first impressions. Tune into your reactions. Maybe you’ve laughed at an insensitive joke or felt discomfort when sharing a space with someone of a different ethnicity. Or you’ve passed silent judgment on a tattooed woman, an overweight person in skimpy clothing, or a gay couple displaying affection. Take a moment to consider whether your negative stereotypes are in play.
Make an intention to be friendlier and more inclusive. Invite those you would not usually talk to into a conversation. Acting more open and friendly helps you to feel more comfortable with others.
Expose yourself to different experiences so it becomes more familiar. Make an effort to go to restaurants and events that attract people from different social groups. Soon, you will begin to see the people from these groups as individuals, rather than part of a stereotypical group.
Tune into media that exposes prejudice. Listen to podcasts, documentaries or follow friends on social media who share these resources.
Practice mindfulness. Learning to be accepting of the present moment without judgment increases an awareness of your emotions, thoughts, and
surroundings. This helps to create a sense of acceptance and non-judgment of others.
Be patient and give yourself—and others—time. It may have taken time to build your biases, and it can take a long time to break them down.