EP43 - You are Biased!

March 16, 2021
 

JJ and Melissa speak frankly about personal biases, and how those biases are formed. They also dive into how we get to grow and adapt to new ways of being as we open ourselves to learn. This pod is not about judgement or politics.  Rather, it's about learning WHAT we believe and HOW we can make ourselves more consciously aware of those beliefs.

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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness journey podcast. This little banter is about a car ride long in features your hosts, JJ Parker, and Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years.

JJ Parker  0:18  
Well, Melissa, last week, I had my Vistage meeting. And I've talked about it before, but that is like my CEO roundtable group that we get together with every month. And, you know, we generally talk about business issues. And most the time, we have a speaker that comes in and talks about different topics, right? Yeah. Lots of times, those topics are just like, how to run your business, HR stuff, like operational stuff, marketing stuff. Yeah. Well, last week, we had a speaker come in, and she talked about unconscious bias. Okay, so heading into that, that meeting and and getting ready to listen about that topic. I wasn't really sure what that was going to entail. What when you when you think about unconscious bias, like what what comes to mind?

Unknown Speaker  1:17  
Yeah.

JJ Parker  1:18  
What are your first instincts about that topic? Right,

Melissa Albers  1:20  
right. I actually was like, unconscious bias, like so then I'm starting to figure out what does that mean? Like, okay, bias, I understand what it means to be biased about something some topic of any variety. Yeah. unconscious bias. Okay. So presumably, I have these opinions. But I don't know that I have these opinions necessarily.

JJ Parker  1:40  
Yeah. Interesting. Right. Like,

Melissa Albers  1:43  
yes.

JJ Parker  1:43  
It's not something you're thinking about some? No, no. Like, we like to think that. We are always, like, we're always somehow in control of our thoughts. But we're not

Melissa Albers  1:54  
know. Well, 99% of the time we're not.

Unknown Speaker  1:57  
Yeah. In any case, I was like, okay, that's an interesting topic on pot unconscious bias. Like, let's, let's learn about that. Yeah. Well,

JJ Parker  2:05  
this speaker, I just for, you know, just a contextual demographic of our little group. I mean, it's generally middle aged. I mean, frankly, as middle aged white people. I mean, I don't know, I'm not gonna put any more padding around that. Because, yeah, because it's what it is. Yeah. And. And she started off with saying, Hey, we're gonna talk about stuff that's gonna make you really uncomfortable. Mm hmm.

Melissa Albers  2:36  
And that's an interesting way to start any group meeting.

JJ Parker  2:39  
Any group? Yeah. Right. Like, I've never met any of you. You're all you know, at the top of your game here, business wise, and I'm going to make you all extremely uncomfortable. So she started in on this topic of unconscious bias and, and her initial point was, you are all biased. You all have bias. Right. And that's across the board in all sorts of different ways. It's racial. It's sure it's socio economic social, like Yeah, yeah. Political. Yep. male female bias yarder? Like all sorts of things. Yeah. And the idea that, like, everyone is bias, like your human brain is actually built, and has been evolved to have bias.

Melissa Albers  3:35  
Yes.

JJ Parker  3:36  
Right. Right. So it's not like a thing you're choosing. It's like you have it. It's Wired In. Yeah. And it's part of human survival over the past, like millions of years. So right. So you have it just so admit you have it right. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  3:53  
Cuz you're not telling our listeners to have it. You're just saying, you are in love

JJ Parker  3:57  
it. You already already do. Yeah. So she wanted us to all admit like, yep. Okay, we are all biased in some way. Which Yeah, I agree with I didn't have a problem with accepting that some of the other people were like, Oh, no, I'm not really biased here. Because

Melissa Albers  4:15  
really, sometimes you have some people say that,

JJ Parker  4:17  
yeah, they're trying to get their head around that like, like the idea that, that they don't, you know, when making hiring, making hiring decisions, they're not doing it in a biased way. Okay. Right. Okay. Which, of course, none of us are going to sit down like, Oh, yeah, we, you know, discriminate on hiring or something like that's not hard in, in and especially in, in business and when when you have a leadership role, I mean, you've been very very careful and sensitive to that and and so so people were just like, you know, I'm not biased like we have These hiring practices and we

Melissa Albers  5:01  
have tried to cover it up.

JJ Parker  5:04  
Right? And her point was like, Okay, fine. But yes, you still are, right. So just getting a little pushback on that, which I thought was, that was nice, but I like, I like her initial positioning, like, because you have a human brain, you are bias accepted. Now, let's figure out what we're gonna do about that.

Melissa Albers  5:24  
And she wasn't coming at it. Like I heard about this meeting through two other sources in addition to you. So it was a thing. It was a thing. If she goes by,

JJ Parker  5:34  
like, run tight enough circles, you know, the drama made it around. Yeah,

Melissa Albers  5:39  
quickly, like six minutes after the event. I would say though, to that, I think in the context of this conversation, it's very important to say that she was not making a judgment against people at all, like it was the exact opposite. It wasn't meant to cause a ruckus, it wasn't meant to be judgmental, or make people feel bad. It was simply to increase awareness.

JJ Parker  6:01  
Exactly as a

Melissa Albers  6:02  
huge distinction. I think that needs to be said right here. Because I think there's a lot of conversations going around the horn these days, about your biases, and diversity, inclusion, and lots and lots of really strong opinions going on about that laced with a lot of judgment. Yeah, in this case, there. She was really, truly trying to educate not judge.

JJ Parker  6:23  
She she was, she did a really, I felt she did a really good job. Not that. So we got into an exercise that kind of proved your point. And I know you've used this a couple times. So I'm gonna walk through this exercise. Yes, I think it was so powerful.

Melissa Albers  6:44  
Yeah. And for our listeners, honestly, this is going to be 30 seconds. And if you're not driving or walking, it would be awesome if you could close your eyes. So you could really do a quick visualization with us. So the visualization is close your eyes and imagine that you have been invited to attend a really high level tech conference in Florida. And it's February hidden Minneapolis, the weather's cold, an awful, and we and you're so excited to go, you pack your bags, you go to the airport, you get on the airplane, you got lucky and you got upgraded, the pilot steps out and says, You guys are all so lucky, you're going to Florida pilot standing there fully decorated and smiling, and offers everybody a great trip disappears into the cockpit, away we go. You get to Florida, it is beautiful out, you get to your hotel on pack, and there's enough time for dinner. So you go down to an open air restaurant that's out on a deck, it's pretty crowded with people. And everyone is really enjoying the atmosphere. It's It's a beautiful ambience, and there's a couple right next to you, and the couples laughing and enjoying the interaction and you sort of are leaning into that interaction, because they're having such a good time laughing and talking about their children. And after a lovely meal, you go to bed. And the next morning, you go to the conference, and you have front row seats to this conference. And the CEO comes out and talks about this super cool new technology and you feel so lucky to have been a part of that conference. So that's the visualization. Now, I just want to ask a couple of questions. And the questions are this was the pilot, a white male? What did your pilot look like? When you went to dinner? The couple that was sitting next to you? Were they biracial? Were they same sex? When you went to the conference, what did the CEO look like? was the CEO a white male? or What did that CEO look like? So that's the visualization. And when I did it, I admit I was the male, the pilot was 50, something white male. The couple was a standard. I'm using air quotes, because there's no such thing as white couple talking about a male and a female talking about their children. And I pictured the stereotypical like Mark Zuckerberg style of CEO in the tech conference. And her her point to that visualization was to just recognize those pictures that you put in your mind. Show you what some of your biases were. What were you What was your experience when you did that?

JJ Parker  9:58  
Well, I mean, Obviously, it was very similar and, and her point was you, you know, what you would visualize through that exercise are going to be people like you. Yeah. Right. So, and she's that that's normal. Like, normally when people come up with these images, they just imagine people just like them. Yeah. Right. So right, yeah, there was a middle aged white pilot and a, you know, a young male, female a couple and, you know, male CEO, right. But that doesn't mean that that shouldn't have been a whole variety of different people as they those are like all of the same meat people. Like I just seen me over and over.

Melissa Albers  10:48  
Right. Right. Are the images that my family has shown me since the time I was young that this is what quote normal? Yes.

JJ Parker  10:56  
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So seeing me and through that story, isn't very exciting. No, bossy. marami. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  11:05  
When when I

JJ Parker  11:07  
it's interesting, right? Yeah. idea that your brain is wired in that way. So it's like, again, it's not a judgment thing. Yeah. Just kind of bring into light like, hey, it's kind of like an his thing. Yep. Now, what are we going to do about it? How does that change the way? Knowing that having that awareness now how does that maybe change the way?

Melissa Albers  11:24  
Yeah,

JJ Parker  11:25  
we want to see the world.

Melissa Albers  11:27  
So I have a question. I'm in that tie in that event, when you had that visualization. So you just explain what your reaction to it was. What was the room's response as a global response?

JJ Parker  11:42  
Well, it was about the same. Everyone seemed to have the same experience. And did right.

Melissa Albers  11:47  
And then what did they feel about the fact that they had that experience? Did people share that like, Oh, that's

JJ Parker  11:54  
okay. I mean, they felt kind of guilty, like a little ashamed. Like, oh, yeah, I know that you went to that exercise? I kind of like or, or at least they felt, I think what we shared was good without a little bit like, oh, boy, there it is. Right. There. She just proved beyond doubt that I have a bias. Yeah. Right. Because when she said, like, Hey, y'all bias some people were pushing back on it. We did the exercise that everyone's like, Oh, yeah, I guess she's right. And then I did I like, personally, I felt like a little guilty. Because I'm like, Why? Why did I by default, See? See the world in that way? And I didn't, I wasn't really very proud of that. You know, and even for our family, I mean, I'm white, we have non white children. Right. And so it's like, I was like, well, that's really unfair of me to have that bias when my own family and living awesome fit this mold. Yeah. Which I think really illustrates how powerful some of those those deep biases, are they, you know, that form in childhood and are deeply ingrained.

Melissa Albers  13:19  
Yeah. So I so when I when I did that exercise. And I think right now, I'm trying to be way more open than even normal. Like I'm really trying to learn. I feel like I'm in this process of wanting to be open and learn. And I realize there's a whole bunch of stuff. We I hear Tony, dog toenails.

JJ Parker  13:41  
white dog user conversation. And

Melissa Albers  13:43  
maybe if we're lucky enough to also have a video Today we can see the tail. But I what's interesting for me is like, even though I feel really open, and I want to hear I want to learn, I really, really want to learn. When I did that, I was like, Oh, wow. Wow. And I to have many non white family members. I mean, my mother's Chinese for as an example. And just to feel that I'm unaware, like I didn't realize that that so I was really kind of open and interested. Like I didn't feel guilty. I felt like wow, this is yet another example of what I didn't know that I thought I did. Right? Yeah. But I want to ask you, so like, that's our individual approach to this topic. But I know that in that meeting, and there's again, this is not a judgement at all, but in that meeting, people got upset, people started to get mad.

JJ Parker  14:40  
So she you know, we started talking about this idea that is it good? Or do you want for your company to hire all of the same kind of people that are just like you right? That was kind of the core of her like thesis here was Oh, got it, okay, you're all business owners, you want high performance organizations? Do you want to hire a bunch of people that are exactly like you, and they think like you, because unless you start becoming more aware of this unconscious bias, by default, you're just going to hire more people that are just like you. Not like really on purpose. But it's just gonna happen just like, just like the visualization exercise we just did. But it's going to happen in real life. Right? And so she started talking about this idea, like, like, hey, so generally are, like, how you're gonna be fairly stereotypical here. Yeah, yeah. And that is not everybody's story. But, but generally, I would say, in this, you know, business owner, CEO, cohort. A lot of the people in those positions had to have start, right. They, they, you know, happen to be the right race and of the economic background from their families, they happen to have been born in the right place. They do, they're just there was so much circumstance that happened for that group of people. Yeah, that the analogy is like, if the goal is to climb Mount Everest, like they started halfway up, like, they didn't have to start down in the town and collect supplies, right? And make it through all the piles and start and they got, like, helicoptered halfway in Yeah, right. I've used this other analogy, where it's like, they started on third base. Right? Yeah. Where some people don't even have a bat.

Melissa Albers  16:59  
Yeah. So. So

JJ Parker  17:03  
what we're trying to get to here is, hey, do you want an employee that was actually just like parachuted into like halfway up the mountain and then just climbs the last half? Or do you want the one that started at the edge of town, you know, made their way collected their supplies, made it all the way up that other first half the mountain, and then brings you to the peak? Or goes to goes with you to the peak? Right. And, and she was saying you want you want the one that that worked hard to get there? Right, they want it more, they have proven that they're able to do it, like they have the grit to actually make it through that trip. The one that gets helicoptered in, likely doesn't right. And that right there.

Melissa Albers  17:53  
That's when it really went sideways,

JJ Parker  17:55  
really derail this whole conversation?

Melissa Albers  17:58  
Yeah. You know, I, I think right now, we're in this really strange place where all of a sudden, well, it's been, it's always been. But all of a sudden, there is a real focus for everybody to straighten up and learn. And I think that the focus comes, and it's coming in so hard, and in so many different directions, that it leaves a lot of people feeling angry. Because it's almost like, well, I'm doing the best I can to and even if I had this and didn't have that, so there's like almost a little defensiveness and protectiveness because of the amount of information and the amount of expectation and the amount of judgment that is laced within this topic. I'm not saying all people are all of those things, but I think there's so much energy around it right now. That it's leaving people feeling like they have to justify every decision and choice that they're making. Yeah. And, and the sad part is, is that like, even in this example, it's not meant to do that. That's not the point of that. You know, and it's I feel sad when it creates a huge ruckus and people get really angry about it, because then we're losing this really, really good opportunity. Or everybody's talking about it.

JJ Parker  19:25  
Yeah. It I agree. Like I agree that it's a it's a it's a good opportunity, what I thought was particularly interesting. After this, this, this talk went sideways, and we had to work a little bit to get back on the rails. What I thought was interesting is like some people were just like, yeah, like it just definitely it threw everyone off kilter. Right? Yeah, everyone was just like, like not centered, and and having just a own their own individual reaction. Yeah, over this. And the, the guy who coordinates the group and who selected this speaker was super concerned. He's like, Oh my gosh, I can't believe this went so bad. I feel really, really bad about maybe like, yeah, even bringing this kind of topic to our group. And I was like, absolutely. Like, this is like the best thing you could have done? Yeah. Does the fact that you knocked everyone off cider, and I guarantee they are all gonna go home tonight. And they're gonna like, he's not like, yeah, talk about it. They're just gonna talk about their complaint about it, or they're gonna like, like I did. I was like, we had the most amazing time. Yeah, but it's good to start the conversation, which I thought was the most beautiful part about it. Like, yeah, let's at least start the conversation. Right? He did a great job of that.

Melissa Albers  20:52  
Right. And I was thinking, you know, I being a Vistage speaker for a number of years, like a dozen years, like that's a pressure cooker to go into those environments and speak to any CEO roundtables, right? And I was a member in that same group for three or four years, or whatever it was. And I give her so much credit, because that's what she always all the time,

JJ Parker  21:13  
every day, she makes like, what a middle aged white guy is super, I love it.

Melissa Albers  21:22  
I just am so proud of her big egos. Yeah, I know. And I've never even met her or actually don't even know her name. But I just have so much pride for the fact that she's willing to go first. She's willing to take this on, energetically, because there's so much energy here. And I don't know, I think that this is a hard topic and everybody's opinions are sort of floating around or they're very deep seated, but no one wants to say what they are now everybody's afraid to even to have an opinion. You know, it's like our say absolutely the wrong thing. canceled, you know, there's a canceled culture out there right now, where if you say the wrong thing, it's over, which doesn't give any room whatsoever for growth and learning and flexibility.

JJ Parker  22:01  
Yeah, I agree. Like with. If you ramp up the pressure in that way, it doesn't actually give people room to grow. Right? It just it? Should we are we actually also talked about this idea around growth like that, which I think is super interesting. I don't want to take us off on too big of a tangent. But we were talking about how, like, if you're part of a maybe like minority group, right, no bug group, that's not part of the main stream the majority. Right? Yeah. And, and there's bias against you. Right? There's stereotypes about your group, right? Yeah. That when you cross that threshold into a mainstream, like, as an advocate for your group, that you have no opportunity to fail. So, um, who was who was that? I kind of like the story a little bit, but who was who was the first black baseball player? Babe Ruth. I don't know is that no, no. No, I'm not. Okay, oh, my God for such big sports fans, right. Well, the analogy that I'm completely killing right now is the idea that, hey, like, like African Americans were not allowed to play baseball. And the first person Yeah, who got to go play baseball. The pressure to be perfect was really high. And if he wasn't perfect, then everyone would be like, Oh, see? That's how, you know, whatever. That's how they act. Right? Yes. And so think about it from both sides, like one sides on accepting the others got such insane pressure to be perfect. Yeah. Right. When you're sort of crossing these boundaries, yeah.

Melissa Albers  24:13  
Interviewed recently. And he said that he was talking about that exact thing. And saying how after every game or during the games, he felt this huge pressure to he had to perform a certain way. And if he didn't, if he had a bad play on the field, people would throw things. Like Yeah, was just terrible. Are you looking at his name is

JJ Parker  24:33  
Jackie Robinson. Robinson.

Melissa Albers  24:37  
Oh, no disrespect. Jackie Robinson fan. Oh, that's in our inability to follow sports.

JJ Parker  24:44  
Okay, I'll get together someday here on this podcast. But I think that's I think that's really interesting, because the thing I'm the thing that's interesting about some of that stuff to me, and we should just do a whole separate podcast on that. is is this idea this this pressure to be perfect? When you're crossing? When you're crossing boundaries, like new jobs, social, economic, like all sorts of boundaries as tons of boundaries. I think that's a really interesting topic. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  25:15  
Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  25:16  
So back on back on unconscious bias, here is one

JJ Parker  25:23  
really deep thought, deep thoughts by JJ. Here's one deep thought the most impactful thing I think are like the really the most close to home thing that that came to me during this, this whole event was this idea that, okay, given my upbringing, I have unconscious bias, okay? If I'm gonna, I'm gonna accept that, right? I have kids that don't look like me. Could I have unconscious bias? That I am actually treating my kids different? And I that one just says, oh, my goodness, like, could that be happening? I don't want that to be happening. But if I accept the idea that I do have unconscious bias, and I'm living in a mixed race environment, could I be applying that bias without knowing it? That's very interesting. So that was my deep thought. That's a very, I don't have an answer for you. But right, it was one thing that I was just like, oh, boy, that's something I really want to sit with them. And think about,

Melissa Albers  26:43  
you know, what I liked for a long time. What I really like about that, JJ, is that it's honest. And it's a question without an answer. And I have experienced so many of my coaching conversations in the last few weeks regarding this topic, where people are feeling so much pressure as leaders to have all the answers. And they don't have the answers. We don't have the answers. And I think that it's much more healthy and easier to say authentically, these are the questions. I don't know the answers, let's explore them. But I don't know the answers. makes it much more approachable and much more open for dialogue and for learning.

JJ Parker  27:25  
Yeah. Well, to wrap this one up, I hope everybody thinks about this topic, maybe goes talks about it. Yeah, you know, with their spouse, with their friends, even with their co workers, because because we want, you know, we want I want, maybe that's not a way but I want a society where we have a variety of opinions, and worldviews and experiences in the room because it makes my organization better and it makes my life experience better.

Melissa Albers  27:58  
Right? Right.

JJ Parker  28:00  
So just opening the conversation, like you said, to not be so judgmental about it, and

Melissa Albers  28:06  
even just closed or even trying not to be as closed. Because it's a it's a self awareness piece, right? Just check in if you're feeling afraid, or like you feel like over responsibility or obligated to position a certain way, and you're unsure, it's totally normal to feel like that. And it's also totally normal to not have the answers and to just say that.

JJ Parker  28:29  
And when you do have this conversation, which I hope you do, really feel how some of these words cause a big reaction in your body because I could tell in me, that was pretty triggered the entire the entire time and even talking here, you can feel yourself kind of go through some reaction.

Melissa Albers  28:55  
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