Who we are, how people see us?

The 4th of July weekend was a great time to disconnect from the routine, spend time with myself and hang out with good friends. What a better way than having brunch in the morning and drinks at night. For a foreign person who is living by himself in another country and away from his family, friends become family. This means they know all the good and bad in my life.

While we were having drinks, we started talking about deeper topics such as personal experiences in life. One of my friends talked about a terrible experience he had on a date where he felt emotionally attacked by a guy who had bad overall impression of him, based on personal characteristics; what were those characteristics? Living in Chelsea, being in shape and caring about fashion. Based on these three elements, the guy told him (in a funny way) that he was a “Chelsea Boy”. My friends immediately asked him what that was. The guy defined this as a shallow, cocky and promiscuous person. But that wasn’t the first time that he had to hear that from people on dates.

Then it was my turn to share something personal, so I talked about life as a “Gay Latino immigrant man” in NYC and what happens on dates with “Non-Hispanic” guys. Usually on the first date, they would tell me that “people” say that “Gay Latino immigrant men” were infamous for being drama kings, without an educational degree, having terrible jobs and “funny accents”.

After everyone shared some story about preconceived ideas about them, someone in the group mentioned that these situations that we have been through are all about “Cognitive Bias”; which basically are patterns of deviation in judgment that occurs in a particular situation.  When he explained this, he also mentioned “The Halo effect” and “The Horns Effect” as the two components of this concept (also known as the Angel and Evil mindsets). In the Halo effect, the person has a positive overall impression of someone base on one trait. The Horns effect is the opposite; the person has a negative overall impression based on one trait as well. These traits could be physical appearance, clothing, social status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.  These biases are common and come into play in the human resources field; for instance one common example is during the recruitment process; when the recruiter has a good or bad overall impression on the candidate, based on the clothing.

After discussing and brainstorming ideas, I realized the complexity of these biases and how fascinating it could be to better understand human behavior. But it wasn’t enough for me. I want to know more about these biases and how to fight back. So, I just found a great book that is about these concepts but also some strategies on how to fight them. In the next post, I will share with all of you some ideas on how to fight back.

Written By: Ruben Rios

Follow @rubendriosv

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