The last of the 4 steps you can take to reduce stereotyping is by far the most important: identify one step you will take and commit to this step. There are at least three proactive steps you can pursue to reduce the impact of stereotyping in your life. The first, and most powerful, is to increase your contact with the stereotyped group. It has been well established in the research literature that face-to-face contact between members of different groups significantly reduces prejudice. The more positive interaction you have with members of the stereotyped group, the more likely you will eliminate this stereotype. The second step is to actively engage in (or interact with people who actively engage in) anti-biased behavior or statements. In other words, proactively talk about why specific stereotypes are wrong or inaccurate. Of course, you don’t need to tell anyone about your particular stereotypes, but the more you verbally debunk your generalizations, the quicker you will rid yourself of that stereotype. Along the same lines, actively challenging biased or stereotypical statements from others will have a positive effect on reducing your stereotypes. Finally, during communication, consciously decategorize, by saying to yourself, “I’m going to get to know this person on an individual basis...I’m not going to make any generalizations or assumptions”. The reason this works so well is that you have recognized, in your own mind, your potential for stereotyping and have taken proactive steps to stop it. This provides you with a chance to really get to know the individual on a personal level, which will further debunk any stereotypes you may have of members of this particular group.
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Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes is an author, speaker, coach and consultant. He helps his clients develop the skills needed to communicate, resolve conflict, solve problems and improve performance in diverse organizational settings.