Posted by Martha Weaver
How good are you at reading people? Can you tell when someone is lying? How about recognizing when you are in a dangerous situation? We human beings evolved to judge each other quickly because our ability to make these judgments had—and still has—real survival value. As a supervisor in an office where some of those we served were people who experienced paranoid thoughts and aggression, part of my job was to intervene at the first sign a client might be a threat to their interviewer. I depended on my ability to "read people” to keep clients and employees safe.
While our ability to read people has survival value, it sometimes is the source of discrimination against, and exclusion of, those perceived as members of an “out group”. It happens almost instantly, and we are usually not even conscious we are influenced by these preconceptions. That is why it is called ‘implicit (unconscious) bias’.
How good are you at reading people, and how often does implicit bias shape those judgements? Harvard’s Implicit Association Test (English only) — taken by millions of people around the world — is an entertaining opportunity to explore some of your own implicit preferences, though please note that it is not diagnostic.  (English only)
Even as we become aware of our biases, they can still affect our thoughts and emotions. One of the scientists who developed the Implicit Association Test, Anthony Greenwald, thinks that most training to overcome implicit bias, from consciously pausing before making decisions to meditation is ineffective.
And what about conscious prejudices that unfairly stigmatize people? Paul Harris said “Many obstacles to the expansion of goodwill have presented themselves. Differences in languages and religions have been among the most formidable, but commercial rivalries have also been dissension breeders. Average public opinion has always been in favor of the limited circle.”
What are we to do? E-Bay's Chief Diversity Officer Damien Hooper-Campbell says we all have experienced exclusion and that sharing those stories and listening to others share theirs is how we develop a circle of trust that will naturally bring people together. "I'm asking you to simply start with a human conversation and a commitment to use your positions of leadership to never knowingly — either directly or indirectly — allow anyone in your sphere of influence to feel the adjectives of the excluded.” he asks.
One final observation: Some of the resources in this article are only in English, and the majority of potential new members in District 7040 are francophone because our District serves half the population of Quebec. Does that surprise you? How do we show that Rotary is relevant to them?