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Four Ways to Reduce Implicit Bias

By Sarah Holm, Case management Intern 

Meet Sarah, the Daily Work intern

I worked as a personal care assistant for most of my high school career and throughout college. As a social work intern at Daily Work I work mainly with immigrants and refugees, which is new to me. When I started my internship at Daily Work, I noticed that implicit biases were impacting my job seekers in employment, housing, and other programs and I started to become interested in advocating for greater awareness of implicit biases. If we act on our biases, it can significantly affect someone’s opportunities to live a thriving life. So here are some things I have learned at Daily Work that can help us become aware of and reduce our biases.

What is Implicit Bias?

Implicit biases are defined as, “…when we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge.” So by definition, we are unaware of implicit bias; so how is it possible to become aware of them and make change? Research shows that there are clear steps we can take to be more aware of our implicit bias and reduce their impact on our actions.

Gain Awareness

The first step to reducing implicit biases is gaining awareness of them. We might believe that our choices are based on objective facts, but without examining our thoughts and subsequent actions, bias might be a driver in our decision-making process. Many studies indicate that simple awareness of implicit bias makes people more likely to examine their thinking processes and adjust their decision-making.

Increase Empathy

The second step in reducing implicit biases is to increase empathy. There are two types of empathy; one is the ability to sense what the other person is feeling or experiencing and the second is to be able to take on the perspective of another individual. The best part? The process of becoming more empathetic can be fun. Key ways to improve empathy include learning about others (other cultures, other traditions) and doing new things that are out of your comfort zone.

Practice Mindfulness

The third step to reducing implicit bias is practicing mindfulness. According to Lexico.com, mindfulness is a “mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment”.

Most importantly, the practice of mindfulness emphasizes being aware of our thoughts and feelings without judging them. Several studies suggest that the nonjudgmental awareness in mindfulness practice can directly reduce implicit bias.

Mindfulness can be a difficult state to attain, but in addition to reducing implicit bias, mindfulness is linked to reducing stress and improving health in general.

Want to try mindfulness meditation? Check it out here!

Create Cross-Group Friendships         

The fourth step to reducing implicit cultural biases is forming friendships with people with diverse backgrounds…or creating “cross-group” friendships. These relationships decrease stress when working across culture and reduce prejudice and the need for a social hierarchy. Furthermore, when people see diverse groups of people having fun together, it may create a domino effect throughout society.

So for your next new experience, try joining a group that does something you are passionate about and that attracts people with different backgrounds.

At Daily Work we strive to help job seekers realize their potential in the workplace. Throughout the workplace and in other places, our job seekers might experience with implicit cultural biases. The more we raise awareness of this important issue, the more likely our job seekers will be able to thrive.

We’d love to hear from you!

  • Can you recognize your own implicit cultural biases?
  • How have you started implementing these steps into your life?
  • Try taking one of the Harvard Implicit Bias tests to test yourself and learn more.

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