Stereotypes are Natural, but Important to Counter

Obviously the big story in social change this week is the Google Manifesto, where an engineer was fired for “perpetuating stereotypes” against women.

Enough people are talking about whether the Manifesto was valid or not, and whether the engineer deserved to get fired, so I instead am thinking about stereotypes themselves.

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago when a woman lamented about how people felt almost affronted when they found out her partner was female, as if she was somehow hiding something from them, or that they should have known.

Stereotypes aren’t inherently bad. The brain uses stereotypes as a shortcut to help us understand a situation quickly, so as to free our brain power for new information. It’s like when you walk into a room. You don’t need to relearn each time what a floor is, or a wall, or a window. From our memories and our learning, we can spend as little brain power as possible on these items and instead focus on other things. Continue reading “Stereotypes are Natural, but Important to Counter”


Want Agreement? Change the Frame

More resource sharing than thought piece this week, but I wanted to share the excellent work that the FrameWorks Institute does.

Their mission is to “advance the nonprofit sector’s communications capacity by identifying, translating, and modeling relevant scholarly research to frame the public discourse on social problems.” What this means is that they help nonprofits figure out the most effective ways to spread their message and gain support with the public. Continue reading “Want Agreement? Change the Frame”

Others Shouldn’t Have to Earn Your Respect

I’ve always cringed at the phrase “You have to earn my respect.”

And it’s such a common saying that I rarely see anyone bat an eye at it.

Even a search of that phrase brings up a bevy of resources for people desperately seeking to earn others’ respect:

In truth, everyone should already have your respect—automatically. It should be a given that other people will receive your respect, even at the first moment you meet. Especially in this era of the internet, where you can often interact with hundreds of people a day without ever having more than just a passing shared moment with them.

Respect is defined, in part, as: “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person”.

A challenge with the notion of earning one’s respect is that the respect giver must deem the other person worthy of respect by displaying some trait that the respect giver admires (generally a trait he or she admires about themselves or aspires to have).

But take two very different people from two very different cultures. It’s possible, and even likely, that due to the cultural differences the “respect giver” will find it challenging to, in essence, see themselves in the other person. Does that make the other person any less deserving of respect?

Don’t worry about others earning your respect. Think about how you can show respect.

This isn’t to say that people can’t lose your respect by acting in ways that are harmful to others. But take the pressure of judgment off of yourself in early interactions. See the other person as someone who has also undergone challenges, hardships, and successes. See the other person as a person.


Keep Asking Why

Little kids are great.

“Why is the sky blue?” “Why do I have to wear this?” “Why does your face look like that?” (OK maybe not so great with that last one.)

Their insatiable curiosity has conditioned most adults to respond in kneejerk “Because” statements. “Because it is.” “Because it’s cold out.” “Because I was born this way!”

At some point in our lives, we’ve transitioned from asking “why” to saying “because”. Is it the feeling that others are expecting an answer from us? Is it that once we asked “why” once, we accept that answer, unquestioningly, for eternity? Continue reading “Keep Asking Why”

Give Space for Others to be Wrong

People love being right, don’t they?

It’s something I’m quite prone to myself. Correcting people often kicks out of me without my even being conscious of it. I like to think I’m just making the world around me more precise and accurate, but likely all I’m truly doing is annoying people and shutting down conversations. (I can already see my husband laughing at me giving advice on this topic.) Continue reading “Give Space for Others to be Wrong”

Peace is an Act of Will

I was watching a recent Harry Potter movie marathon when a scene came on of Harry, Hermione, and Ron walking down a crowded London street. I thought about how vulnerable all of the “Muggles” on the street were compared to the magic the three could bring to bear, and how, if they wanted to, they could cause mass chaos easier than I could write a sentence.

Clearly, they wouldn’t, because they’re the heroes of the story. But I then thought about how it wouldn’t take magic to start pandemonium. Any person could just run down the street, punching people in the face. And it’s almost remarkable how rare these outbursts are compared to the overall population of people. Continue reading “Peace is an Act of Will”

Freedom Comes with the Responsibility to Yield

I was riding the subway earlier this week at rush hour when I heard raised voices.

“I’m a free man”, said Man 1 as the train started rolling. He had his back up against the train’s door and was glaring furiously at an older man standing just across from me. “You can’t tell me where to step, this isn’t your train,” he continued. “I’m a free man.” Continue reading “Freedom Comes with the Responsibility to Yield”

Why Are We OK With These Assassination Jokes?

This week, Johnny Depp publicly said: “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?”

Last month, Kathy Griffin posted a horrific photo of herself holding up what appeared to be a bloodied, decapitated Trump head.

I strongly believe in the 1st amendment. I’m a huge proponent of allowing controversial speakers and of sparking debate. But calling for the murder of anyone is not exercising free speech. It’s a threat. And this language should not be used lightly or encouraged. Continue reading “Why Are We OK With These Assassination Jokes?”

Understand Messenger Motivations to Uncover Facts

The news today about Amazon buying Whole Foods made me think of my surprise when, as a teenager, I discovered that Disney owned much more than just a few theme parks and a movie collection.

While it always seemed like there was such variety—hundreds of TV channels, shows, newspapers, magazines—in reality, these could all be directly connected to just a handful of companies.

Suddenly, the world seemed to shrink. I realized I wasn’t as exposed to different thoughts and ways of life as I might have expected. When everything you are exposed to can be attributed to the desires of ~50 people (mostly white men), how representative of life’s possibilities can it actually be? Continue reading “Understand Messenger Motivations to Uncover Facts”

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