Have you ever had the experience where you were speaking to an elderly man or woman and you were talking loudly to make sure that they could understand you only to realise that despite their elderly age, their hearing capability was perfectly fine and you were being ridiculous talking so loud?
Or have you ever been given someone else’s baby to take care of and when the child started crying the first thing you came up with was; this baby must be hungry; cause with your limited knowledge of children the only thing you could come up with is that a baby cries when he’s hungry. Which is absolutely legitimate; but only in some cases.
These two cases are just a few examples of how we all have prejudices.
In these cases it’s an innocent form of a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience”. As these cases show us; these two examples of prejudices are harmless and culturally accepted.
In the case here above it might be a funny experience, once you realise that the person you are talking to can perfectly hear you and you are making fun of yourself talking that loud. This can easily be corrected by taking a normal conversation tone.
In the case of the baby, well if he is not hungry he will simply ignore your attempt of overfeeding him and will continue to cry until you realise that he needs something else than an other spoon of baby porridge.
Prejudice is an umbrella word to show people’s tendency to over generalise others. In the above cases the preconceived opinion about the other person was innocent and harmless but what if we went on to generalise everyone we meet? What if we are used to form an opinion of others without taking the time to get to know them or the situation they are in? What if our perception of others is in fact a generalisation of what we’ve preconceived without actual facts?
If we go back to the example of the crying baby, a baby doesn’t always cry for food, sometimes a child will cry because he’s getting new teeth and the process of having a new teeth growing is painful for a child. Of course if we base our understanding of this little child’s needs on the 5 minutes that we spent with him we will probably not understand what’s going on, after our ridiculous attempt of trying to give him an other spoon of food in the most exciting and interesting way possible (by playing planes for example, what I sometimes try to do). It would take us some time to realise that the crying baby isn’t crying because he is hungry; and often it would take up to the mother, who knows the child well to detect what the baby needs, while we as outstanders would probably not know what is going on.
I tried to find very common and basic examples that you might have encountered in your life to show you that prejudice is not an isolated case, it is something that all of us participate in a day to day life. Here you have been able to see that prejudice can be harmless but in some cases; this can be harmful not only for us but most of the time to the person we are judging. When we take away the age group and start to make prejudice on everyone we meet this can blok our communication with others. You wonder how? Well let me tell you.
When you meet someone, you immediately form an idea or concept about that person. We all do this, which is fine, but when your perception of the person you have in front of you is negative; immediately your communication with this person will be limited. You won’t have the patience and willingness to listen and understand what this person is saying because your mind is already filled with what you think you know about that person. Also your communication to others can be limited if you feel yourself superior to the person in front of you. This will cause you to ignore this person or not give them the time to express them selves or try to understand them simply because you feel superior to them some how.
Let me give you one more example. There was this writer/public speaker who was trying to make his way into the public eye; he was trying to get himself known in order to get some credibility. One day he heard that this tv show host was coming to some events; so the man did his best to get to that event and spent the biggest part of the evening trying to talk to this famous show host. Finely he got the chance and stood in front of this show host; there was this man standing next to him and some other people aroud. This man thought I got this one shot; so he went on and gave the a show host his fullest attention and tried to impress him as best as he could ignoring everyone else that was standing with him. He was proud of himself as he thought he had made a good impression on this well known tv show host. The next day he heard that the man standing right next to this tv show host; the man that he had completely ignored during the whole conversation was actually the one owning the whole network; he not only owned the tv program and channel but also owned many radio stations around the city. So then he realised that he was impressing someone just because that person was well known on tv, while ignoring the one he actually had to be talking to and of course the owner of this big network wasn’t too impressed to have been ignored.
If this man wasn’t filled with prejudice of thinking; this person is important to me so I will give him all my attention and ignore this other man because I don’t know him so he mustn’t be that important; he would have saved his career many years of struggles. This all because his communication was limited due to what he thought he knew about the person standing in front of him.
What I want you to get from this is that even though you think you know someone; try to put your prejudice aside and try to have an open communication; you might be amazed of what the other person can bring you. Remember, every communication is a key to the next step in your journey.