...through the looking glass

So, let me share a story….

I was in the midst of some spring cleaning the other day and realised that I needed to grab a few things from the supermarket. I grabbed my purse and headed out, in my suitably relaxed garb…..

I waited in the queue of a shop that I had been to hundreds of times before, and at the till of someone who I had exchanged pleasantries with in the past. The server was her usual cordial self with those in front of me.

How interesting that when it was my turn, suddenly the tone turned to one that was almost officious – even with my warm greeting of recognition. My groceries were carelessly placed, little eye contact, no small talk and they didn’t even ask the pre-programmed ‘do you have your Sparks card (now there’s a clue!). When I answered the question that I hadn’t been asked, there was almost a look of surprise.

In my mind I thought ‘what could possibly have changed’? Could it be the fact that I wasn’t in my usual polished office wear, with my harried work-weary look lugging a laptop bag and a suitcase? Can it be that a change of clothes had completely changed their perception of me, such that I was no longer recognizable as someone who deserved such cordial and familiar treatment? Or maybe the world had changed since my last visit.

I asked if they were OK, that they were not as chatty as usual. Interestingly the tone changed immediately, almost over compensatory. I had ‘called it out’ - forcing some perceptual recognition and, seemingly, the right to be treated as those ahead of me had been.

I am a realist and know that biases, unconscious or otherwise, can never be eradicated outright – and I am sure that I have plenty of my own; but I think we have the right, or dare I say obligation, to call it out.

Where this behaviour is truly unconscious, I truly believe most will be mortified – that’s my experience. For those for whom it was conscious – well better to know, right?!

'Calling it out' is not just for the person that it comes from, but also for ourselves – so we don’t carry, what can be a negative experience - feeding new biases of our own and possibly limiting or distorting our perception of our options or abilities.

My personal belief, and a core part of the ethos of Uniquity, is that everyone should have the same chances – irrespective of where you’ve been, what you are doing today and what you look like. This is why I try to keep things personal – looking for commonality based on individual experiences, passions, talents, interests – not on what you look like on the outside, but how you tick on the inside.

That’s the aspiration. Let’s hope it catches on.

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