By Fritz Beissner
We should not be dominated by the images we create of others.
No matter where we go or who we interact with, prejudice will always be there first. Our perception is a mixture of reality, thoughts and memories indistinguishably mixed together. This mixture affects the way we act, the way we talk and the way we approach people or things. Especially if we have never met them.
Why should I care?
Well, there is of course the social aspect of being a nice person and treating everybody equally. But this is kind of self-explanatory and, as I have found, not a great topic for discussion. Try convincing a racist person that they should stop. It is not a lack of understanding that is driving them but a lack of care for others. Hating is easy, even if it doesn‘t serve a purpose. So as I am not in a mood for pointless arguing with people that won‘t change their minds, this Blog will focus on other reasons. Business reasons, as money seems to be a universal language that everyone understands. Like it or not, cash is extremely convincing if administered in the right amount.
So what is in it for me?
As I said, money. Or at least better business. Actually, if you are not working in a foreign country or with foreigners, then you will not need this at the moment. Still, it is interesting and might help in the future or with other things in life.
An example might help.
Let's say you just moved to a foreign country for the company you work at. Obviously, the culture is new to you, the food is different, the people are different and so is the entire atmosphere of the place. Now, you could just ignore this and keep going as if you were at home. Fair enough, it is the easiest way but is it the best? Tell you what, it isn‘t the worst. You could reject everything and openly state that the local customs are worse than the ones you know and that everyone should switch to your superior system. That is the bad way. The good way is to open up. Try not to judge but to learn as if you were a child. Don‘t switch off your brain though, think about what you see and analyze it. The better you understand this new environment, the easier it will be to work with the people in it. And this is what you came here for, work. How could you possibly do business if you don‘t know how it is done. Because right now, it is done the way the locals do it. No one will work with you if you treat them disrespectfully and one of the most disrespectful things is to look down on them. See them as equals, after all, they are human beings just like you. And just like you they want to do business so make sure they do it with you.
My company sells stuff that they need so it doesn‘t matter.
This is a good point and it will most likely be the case if your company is active in technologically less developed countries. However, what if a competitor joins this market and steals all your deals because they treated people with respect? Good luck explaining to your boss why you were too lazy to make an effort. Sure, if you have a monopoly on a good, then this also doesn‘t matter. But you might just have a better time enjoying the place if people actually like you.
Is that really it, just don‘t be mean?
Yes but actually no. Think about the last time you have experienced something new. Did you judge it? Not even openly criticize, just internally went like, eh why though? I have to admit, every time it‘s the same. I always do that even if I don‘t want to, even if I like something. It‘s not consciously, rather just a gut reaction to new inputs. And I am certain that if left with only this initial impression, I would be a terrible person to interact with. This however is exactly what we have to overcome, the first impression, the first thoughts. After that, we can start to learn and understand new cultures. Maybe not appreciate them, not everything different is automatically great, just understand them. See them as an equal to the culture you grew up with and the people in it as equals.
Big text small conclusion.
In order to end this Blog in a memorable way, I have created a rhyme that is bad enough to stick in your head. I am truly sorry but it does sum up prejudice very well.
Prejudice is the name, prejudice is the game. That you have to play every single day. Be smart, player, as this game likes to play too. The outcome however only depends on you.