Attitudes, expectations and stereotypes: Can (should) we see the world beyond them?

printing stereotype
The old printing stereotype obviously isn't the ethnic, class-based and other sorts of stereotype described in this post, but may reflect or help solve the issues.

Sometimes you are hit by a surprise sledgehammer. A couple of nights ago, I received an email that accused me of long-term behaviour worse than evil. I won’t go into specifics because I don’t want to create even the slightest chance of identifying the sender in public (reflecting one of this blog’s fundamental rules — never to negatively identify individuals or organizations, except in the most exceptional circumstances.)

While the email, and the specific context, were surprising, I’ve heard the same words from the same individual before over several years. Its like: Push a certain emotional button, and — wham — out spews the invective. In part because this isn’t new to me, and because there are no actual consequences from the words unless I want there to be, I won’t do anything other than adhere to the company’s general policies and systems: We’ll openly discuss the issue related to the person’s anger and resolve it through consensus but within policy (unless there is a strong majority reason to breach the well-established rules.)

The issue here to me relates to those underlying anger stereotypes and their broader implications. How much of all of our thought processes — and I’m not just referring to the single individual here — are defined with the same sorts of mind-sets; and how do these traits affect our business decisions and choices?

Politically, in the US, at least, the stereotypes are manifesting in some pretty wild “politically incorrect” behaviour. Maybe, however, I’m defined by my own liberal”stereotypes and personal narrative. Undoubtedly, however, this stereotyping affects our choices of friends, employees, clients and other relationships. We tend to want to be near people we like, relate, and share our values. We want to be far away from individuals who don’t.

While undoubtedly stereotypes and engrained mind-sets and values make life easier because we don’t need to process for exceptions and variations, they can be destructive in closing doors that shouldn’t need to be closed. Nevertheless, we should take them into account, both in a positive and negative way, in thinking about how our marketing and business development initiatives will be perceived. Alas, underneath the surface, we cannot change minds easily. So the stereotypes remain, whether we like them or not.

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