Let’s get a few things straight.
- Biases are inherent in every human
- We can’t get rid of them (nor should we be trying to)
- They are designed to help us arrive at decisions quickly
- You can mitigate their impact by being aware they exist
- You do this by taking time to understand what your own biases are, how you express these, and how others might be impacted by you and your behaviours
- Our biases are reinforced at nearly every life interaction we have because of the structures we have around us
- Even if you understand your biases impact you and others negatively, it’s really hard to change how you think about things
- To truly not be influenced by your biases requires serious levels of fundamental redesign of the human brain (almost). If you can’t do that, then design a system which is free from bias (hint, this is also really hard)
There’s more, but that’s enough for now.
Sometimes facilitators think that because of the role they take with others, they’re somehow absent from biases and able to control them better than others.
We create and want to create an impression that the session and time the group has with them is safe, protected and people are accepted and included. That’s the intent.
And I guess I’d like to take a moment and hold up a mirror with some questions for facilitators (I ask myself these questions all the time. I’m no better at doing this than anyone else):
- Before you’re ready to start your facilitation, how have you entered your environment well?
- Before you’re ready to start your facilitation, what assumptions have you made about your ability and that of those in the group?
- Before you’ve started facilitating, what is bothering you and how is that going to impact your day?
- When you are meeting people, what are you doing to accept them for who they are and how they present themselves and not who you think they are?
- When you are facilitating, what biases are having an undue influence on you and what you’re saying?
- When you are facilitating, how are you sure the examples and personal anecdotes you use aren’t just reinforcing what you already believe?
- When you are facilitating, how are you enabling others to hear you without feeling judged?
- When you are facilitating, and you know someone is clearly misunderstanding the content, how do you accept them and their position?
These are just some questions that start to help with actively being mindful of your biases as a facilitator. Ultimately it comes down to your willingness to be a better person. That’s hard work, doesn’t come easily, and often is fraught with unexpected personal challenge.
This post isn’t in reference to anyone.