Some women CAN read maps!
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a comment or inference that, because you’re a woman, you can’t read maps (or because you’re a man, you don’t listen) …
Then you may understand the frustration and annoyance that goes with this kind of generalisation. (I actually happen to be very good at reading maps!)
Such general statements come about as a result of our ability to make generalisations as we interact with the world around us. As a child, we learn labels for things in our immediate environment; door, chair, bed, shoes, etc. Initially, we assume that word represents that particular item only, until we come across other doors, shoes, chairs. Then we use this information to generalise. We quickly learn that ‘door’ could come in many forms and sizes.
Fortunately, the ability to generalise saves us from re-learning things over and over again. However, we need to err on the side of caution when making generalisations regarding human behaviour.
I recently overheard a comment that ALL drivers of a certain make of car were reckless and dangerous, after the person making the comment had been “cut up” by the driver of such a car. This type of statement gives an unhelpful label to such car owners, and can lead to further prejudice if not checked.
Here’s a tip …
If you hear yourself making generalisations, listen out for the verbal clues that can accompany them. For example: use of the following words … all, every, never, always…
- He/She never delivers a good presentation
- Every time I make a suggestion, you ignore it
- I always receive negative feedback when I try to introduce something new
This unhelpful language often limits us to take action, move forward, choose something different, and see the positive actions of others.
So, whenever you hear yourself making general statements, ask yourself the following:
- What, never? / Always? / Every time?
- How helpful is this statement to me?
Which unhelpful generalisations have you heard / made recently?
I’m Debbie Inglis, a performance coach, mentor and trainer, working with Heads, Principals, School leaders and their teams to maximise leadership performance, create more effective, confident, and motivated teams … in a way that brings out the best in them.