How to reduce prejudices and stereotypes?

Last week we wrote about prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. Prejudices and stereotypes are not necessarily bad if they support us in achieving our goals and ideas, as long as they do not endanger another human being in any way, and then they become extremely destructive and harmful. Research shows that people who are targets of prejudices have poorer mental and physical health, a higher incidence of depression, poorer grades, poorer employment opportunities, lower wages, and thus more stress.

It is known that prejudices are difficult to change because they are deeply ingrained in the consciousness of an individual, but one should not lose hope because none of us are born with them! We learn them from an early age, but as they can be learn, they can also be unlearned. 😉

How to reduce them?

Initially and most importantly in terms of reducing prejudices and stereotypes in children, it is important that parents, teachers, educators and other people in the immediate vicinity of children, face their own prejudices because they are harmful to children because they create negative feelings, hostile attitudes, increase condemnation among children, lead to fear and avoidance of members of other groups, and create a feeling of inferiority and social rejection in discriminated children.

The task of all of us in the immediate vicinity of children, and in general, is to think about what our prejudices are – how on what grounds have we formed them. Before judging a person, ask him / her to explain to you why he / she did what is being discussed, think about on what do you base your views and opinions on a person … Remember that you would certainly not like someone to judge you before they listen to you or even meet you!

One of the useful methods for reducing prejudices and stereotypes is to take on another person’s perspective or stepping in “other people’s shoes”. Taking another person’s perspective or stepping into someone else’s shoes can prompt us to imagine and experience the emotions experienced by the targets of prejudice. This encourages our sense of similarity, sympathy, empathy, and thus closeness to individuals who could be the target of our prejudices and discrimination, which results in our more positive attitudes towards them. We can also encourage children to accept diversity and to adapt to these differences. It often happens that children make fun of and insult each other because of their diversity. In such a situation, children should be encouraged to put themselves in someone else’s shoes –  take on the perspective of the target of their prejudices and be encouraged to think about how they feel that they are being treated in this way. By doing this, children are encouraged to think about their own behavior, which contributes to reducing prejudice and discrimination. One study found that writing an essay in which young people need to take an older person’s perspective in itself reduces stereotypes about older people and lead to more positive attitudes toward them.

Another useful method of reducing prejudice and stereotypes may be decategorization, which refers to emphasizing an individual’s individuality and “uniqueness” over his or her belonging to a particular group. In practice, it looks like this: – The next time you meet a person about whom you have a certain prejudice based on his belonging to a certain group, try to meet that person – what are their personal characteristics, what do they like / dislike, what are theirs ambitions and goals… It is important to talk and get to know people with different opinions, attitudes and their prejudices. It should be borne in mind that people belonging to different groups of us may have the same opinions as ourselves.

A third useful method can also be the process of recategorization, which refers to thinking about what our characteristics or categories are common to a person about whom we potentially have certain prejudices or stereotypes. We can best illustrate this method with an example. Therefore, imagine the following: Imagine a tense match between Dinamo and Hajduk. On the one side of the stands are Dinamo fans, while on the other side are Hajduk fans – both cheering for their teams. In one part of the stands, fans of rival teams are sitting next to each other. Imagine a Dinamo and Hajduk male fans sitting next to each other- They start talking and realize that they are both primary school teachers, thirty years old and their favorite dish is Slavonian pizza. So, even though they cheer for different teams, they see themselves as men of the same age group, occupation, and food preferences. If we emphasize such a categorization, these men will feel less negative prejudices against each other because they recognize that they actually have things in common and thus feel “closer” to each other.

Furthermore, sometimes we too, large or small, can influence the bad behavior of people around us – especially our friends. We can do this by pointing out to them, for example, that it is wrong to treat someone in such a way, because when their friends say they are doing something wrong, they are more likely to question themselves and think about their behavior, and consequently might realize that it is not right.

However, one of the most important methods of reducing negative prejudices and stereotypes is to acquire information, i.e. to learn about the object of our prejudices. The proverb “knowledge is power” is extremely useful in this regard because it is one of the best methods to break down walls of prejudices and stereotypes. Due to ignorance or lack of knowledge, it is more likely that we will draw wrong conclusions and fill certain gaps in our knowledge with unverified information. Therefore, after becoming aware of your prejudices and stereotypes, learn more about the objects of your prejudices – you are likely to be surprised at how wrong you have been!

We hope these guidelines will help you reduce harmful and negative prejudices and stereotypes. Remember “knowledge is power” and together we can make the world around us a more beautiful and less judgmental place! 🙂

Center Luka Ritz

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