While attending a local fair, which had free ice cream, Sheeplock and Dachson were admiring the amazing quilts on display. The skill and time invested in producing these puts them on par with great pieces of art. As is usual with our duo, everywhere they go seems to have some need of their skills. There was an argument occurring between two different displays of quilting. One booth was run by a team that used modern tools to cut and sew their quilts, but still used hand work where necessary. The other booth featured a trio that used only traditional methods, cutting and sewing by hand. The traditionalists were arguing that the use of modern tools meant that the other team wasn’t making quilts but just mass producing a similar product. The modern team thought they were producing quilts.
All eyes turned to Sheeplock and Dachson. Sheeplock handed his ice cream to Dachson and gave him a definite “Do not eat that!” look. Then he said “All of you are making amazing quilts in your own way. The traditionalists, however, are letting their own biases keep them from seeing what is currently possible in the art form. It is a fine and noble goal to keep the original practices alive and in use. However, we shouldn’t let a biased reverence for the past blind us to the capabilities of the future. Whether you cut on or against the bias, with scissors or a machine, you are all producing quilts. If you can let go of your biases, you will find that you all have interesting experiences and knowledge to offer each other.” At this point, Sheeplock bought a wonderful quilt featuring an image of a squirrel he thought would look just wonderful in his stall. Then he headed off for his next case, the mystery of the missing ice cream.
What we see here is an example of someone letting their own biases control their thoughts and keep them from thinking critically. All of us do this to some extent. The repercussions tend to lie along a spectrum. On the one end you might see jokes and stereotypes about a particular subject or group of people. On the other, you might see unwillingness to talk, agree, compromise or even violence. In the middle are issues of miscommunication, flawed understanding, and missed opportunities. While this is a problem we all exhibit, there are steps we can take to reduce the impact of our own and others biases.
Let’s look at something on the lighter side of the spectrum. A work colleague tells you about a new movie they saw which is a drama that features a stellar cast, amazing acting, direction, story and pacing. They think it’d be great if you went with them to see it again. But you aren’t into such things, you like action movies, fights, working with your hands, drinking beer and you’ve got a reputation to uphold. This might be a case where you are letting your bias against what you see as a possibly boring film genre stop you from having what could be a great experience. Sharing this with your colleague might start a long friendship. You may realize that these movies are much more interesting than you ever thought. You might even learn your colleague wanted to head to a cigar and whiskey bar afterwards since they like and know you are into it too. Was this a life ending issue? No, but it does show how we can let our own biases cause us to miss opportunities.
Bigger problems can occur when we let our biases stop of from thinking critically about decisions that can affect not only ourselves but everyone around us. This, I think, is one cause of the overly divided politics in the US and other countries. The different political bodies have firm ideas and very strong opinions and we’re conditioned to behave, think and act a certain way based on which party we affiliate ourselves with. We should not automatically reject an idea because it came from the other party. And we should ask them not to reject ours. When we reject each other, communication stops and that means progress does as well. If a big government and a small government person meet, they should try to put their biases away and listen to the other person, understand where their ideas come from, what kind of personal investment they have and actually communicate. Progress is much easier when that happens.
Putting aside your biases does not mean giving them up. You can still have your same ideas and opinions but, as a critical thinker, you should learn how to look past yourself and understand where others are coming from. This is one of the most powerful practices we can develop. It allows us to understand other people on a much deeper level. It opens us up to learning more and will help to figure out where we are wrong – yes, we are all likely wrong about a lot of things, we just haven’t realized it yet. Plus, even if you still don’t agree with someone on some point, you will understand their position more fully and be able to make a better counter argument. It isn’t easy, but like any other new technique it takes practice. As you learn to do this, you may find it very rewarding.