Prevention Pays: The cost of reparation

As busy, working professionals, we so often wait for conflict to arise or relationships to deteriorate before we take steps to learn more about human relationships in the work environment. And by that point, the steps toward reparation can seem painful and even daunting. We know this, but we wait anyway. What does it take, then, to convince ourselves to take preventative measures against unnecessary conflicts?

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Brown and Rosecrance wrote and edited a book called
The Costs of Conflict: Prevention and Cure in the Global Arena (1999), in which they analyzed the prevention and reparation (“cure”) of specifically armed conflict around the globe. They wanted to expose reasons why the international community spends more time trying to solve serious conflicts after-the-fact than they do trying to prevent them.

Using their book to analyze the costs and benefits of prevention vs cure, the authors found armed conflict prevention to be significantly more economical than efforts to repair or cure relationships after-the-fact. Deep-seated conflicts are, after all, a very difficult type of issue to work with in a group setting, and can have effects that last for extended periods of time. The same can be said for workplace human relationships. Would you rather train your whole staff on themes like diversity and sensitivity, or wait for an accidental, preventable joke to snowball into a liability?

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Moral of the story:

If we as working professionals recognize the value in prevention, then we may just be able to use our well-earned time and funds elsewhere.

 

 

Brown, M. E., & Rosecrance, R. N. (Eds.). (1999). The costs of conflict: prevention and cure in the global arena (Vol. 118). Rowman & Littlefield.

Your Social Awareness is Due for an Update

Do you feel 100% equipped and ready for conversations about today’s most talked-about, controversial topics? In today’s quickly changing world, certain topics, when brought up in a conversation, can make people uncomfortable. We sometimes don’t know how to talk about religion, for example, without accidentally stepping on someone’s toes. Here’s where training comes in.

When you think about it, our social awareness, just like our electronic devices, sometimes requires an update in order to be as equipped as possible for the changing environment. Before I continue directly on the topic of social awareness, I want to first unpack this timely metaphor because I believe doing so will effectively communicate the intended message here.

If you own a smartphone, computer or tablet, you have probably been notified by your device more than once that an update is available. They don’t always force you to update, but it comes highly recommended in order to maintain functionality. Eventually we do update our device because at some point we begin to run into problems. 

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Technically speaking, updating your device keeps you safe from known security holes. In fact, by  not securing your programs through updating, you leave your system open to compromise, making your software vulnerable to error. Consider this now: Is your awareness of today’s social issues up-to-date? Or is it currently vulnerable to error? Filling the gaps in awareness can help you avoid doing or saying something that accidentally offends someone, and can also prevent a lot of unnecessary embarrassment.

At Breakview we strive to help people fill the gaps in awareness and we also provide and practice strategies for confronting your own personal bias as well as the biases of those around you.  I believe Maya Angelou said it best when she wrote the following:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

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Gender Equality: Rethinking the role of religion

The terms sex and gender often get misused. Have you ever heard yourself or another person ask a pregnant woman if she knows the gender of the baby? Not that you should go around correcting people, but this would be impossible. The only thing that can be determined at that point is the sex of the baby.
Current research on sex and gender tells us that the term sex refers specifically to the biological sex organs we are born with, while gender is a concept that serves to represent the internal sense of who we are in terms of masculinity and femininity. A person’s sex at birth can align with their gender identity, in which case a person would be considered cisgender; whereas a person whose sex does not align with their gender identity would be considered transgender.  It is possible, thus, for a person of the male sex to feel and identify as female, and vice versa.

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Now that we are clear on the difference between sex and gender, let’s get onto the main topic: gender and religion.

The most popular religions in North America include Christianity (including Catholicism), Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, Christianity being the most wide-spread. Withinthese religious groups there exist certain traditional understandings related to gender, many of which are still recognized today as legitimate.  The problem with many old traditions related to gender, however, is that they often place females and femininity lower than males and masculinity in the social hierarchy, keeping women down even in today’s world.

Examples:

The Bible and the Quran, for example, which are regularly read and worshiped by millions of people across the globe, spread explicit messages of sexism and disparagement toward the female community.

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

(1 Timothy 2:12)

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

(Ephesians 5:22)

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them [first], [next] refuse to share their beds, [and last] beat them [lightly]; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means [of annoyance]: For Allah is Most High, great [above you all].”

(Sura 4: 35)

Although not completely to blame, traditional religious beliefs do indeed play a significant role in maintaining the dominance of men over women in today’s modern world; however in Nicolas Kristof’s article Religion and Women, the author shares the view that religion, being as powerful and influential as it is, has the potential to be a significant driver of change for the better.  Kristof specifically mentions areas where this is already happening, citing that:

“[P]aradoxically, the churches in Africa that have done the most to empower women have been conservative ones led by evangelicals and especially Pentecostals. In particular, Pentecostals encourage women to take leadership roles, and for many women this is the first time they have been trusted with authority and found their opinions respected. In rural Africa, Pentecostal churches are becoming a significant force to emancipate women.”

In a second example, Kristof describes another excellent precedent set by the church – the abolition of slavery.

“Each of the Abrahamic faiths accepted slavery. Muhammad owned slaves, and St. Paul seems to have condoned slavery. Yet the pioneers of the abolitionist movement were Quakers and evangelicals like William Wilberforce. People of faith ultimately worked ferociously to overthrow an oppressive institution that churches had previously condoned.”

Moral of the story: if we use our power and influence for good, we can contribute in a largely significant way to the move toward a more inclusive, respectful world.

Has it ever occured to you that you might be wrong?: The problem with Confirmation Bias

Two months ago I adopted a puppy – a Norwegian Elkhound – and I had never seen or heard of this type of dog before. Now, all of a sudden, it seems like I am hearing about and seeing Norwegian Elkhounds everywhere! Has this ever happened to you, where you learn about something new and and all of a sudden this new thing seems to pop up everywhere, like it is gaining popularity all of a sudden? This experience is called frequency illusion and it is a natural trick our minds play on us. We learn about something new and all of a sudden we begin to notice its existence like never before.  It happens even more dramatically when this new thing relates to us in some way – for example if we buy a new car, discover a new author, or go to the concert of a new band. We think “wow, it seems like everyone is into Norwegian Elkhounds all of a sudden…”

Although this mind trick seems completely harmless, the trouble is that mind tricks such as this enable us to see things in oversimplified ways and can even cause us to develop stereotypes about people.

A very similar yet more active form of frequency illusion, called confirmation bias, involves subscribing to a certain belief and then subconsciously seeking out and favoring information that confirms this belief while rejecting sources that disprove it.   A good example of this can be seen in current disagreements about gun control in the United States.  When a shooting occurs in a public place, those in favor of gun ownership see evidence supporting a need for more gun ownership in the right hands, while those not in favor of gun ownership see evidence supporting a need for more gun control and less guns for people in general.

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Stereotypes come into play here when we have a certain belief regarding a characteristic of a group of people. For example, if a person holds a certain belief that blonde women are unintelligent, then they are more likely to hold onto instances that confirm this belief and disregard instances that disprove this belief.

What this tells us is that in order to avoid prejudging people, we must take control of our biases by actively acknowledging all sources presented to us – even those that tell us our beliefs are wrong – because we can only say that we are confident in our beliefs if we have truly read both sides of the story.

I know this information about frequency illusion and confirmation bias is a lot to process but don’t worry…I’m sure you’ll hear it again sometime. 😉