HELEN TURNBULL, PhD, CSP,
GLOBAL SPEAKING FELLOW, is an
internationally recognized thought leader
on unconscious bias, global inclusion,
and diversity. She spoke at TEDx in May
2013 and is the author of several books,
including The Illusion of Inclusion, as well
as three online assessment tools supporting
unconscious bias, inclusion, and gender.
During Influence 2018, I had the honor of serving as a co-chair for International Speaking Day. We asked each member-region to share advice they would give
to “out-of-country” visiting speakers. We had a lot of fun and
laughter learning from each other. Underneath the laughter,
however, was a significant message. The lists we generated were
revealing some of our blind spots as speakers.
It may seem obvious when you are a visiting speaker to
another country that you should use stories that are specific
to that country, but do you? It’s easy to spot another speaker’s
faux pas, but if we are to avoid the cringe-worthy moments
that cause our audience to tune us out, then catching our own
blind spots and unconscious bias is important work.
If, for example, you try out a story and the audience laughs,
you might apply confirmation bias and try it again, expecting
the same result. However, if the story is inappropriate in
another culture, your cognitive shortcut will have let you down.
… and managing your blind spots
BY HELEN TURNBULL, PhD, CSP,
GLOBAL SPEAKING FELLOW
EVERYDAY BLIND SPOTS
No one gets to be an exception when it comes to unconscious
biases. We all have them. They show up daily in many small
ways—whose voice do you hear as credible, whom do you
trust or not trust, whose accent do you have trouble listening
to, whom do you notice or avoid?
Here are some unconscious biases that can show up on
a regular basis. We don’t need to be speaking in another
country for these to happen:
Spotlight effect. It’s all about them, right? Not really.
It’s usually about me.
Jumping to conclusions. Are you checking your
assumptions and knee-jerk reactions?
Pattern recognition. Our brains seek out familiar
patterns. What are your patterns and how might you get
hooked by them?
Confirmation bias. Are you looking to confirm what
you already know?
Dominant thinking. How does your privilege show up?
Cultural superiority. Do you research local heroes and
stories or just use your old faithful?
When you’re working in another country, it’s a good idea
to ask your host what previous visiting speakers have done
or said to turn off the audience and what regional topics
would be a good fit for your message. It’s an even better
idea to remain mindful that your unconscious biases do not
go away and are impacting your day-to-day behavior and