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#WFH: Why Do We Stereotype?

Stereotyping is a group of beliefs held by one group of people about another group of people. There is a tendency to recognize but oversimplify with stereotypes. Stereotypes pigeonhole people into a group based on very limited information. When we stereotype we are not concerned about the person as an individual. We make people much more homogeneous than they are. We attribute general and similar characteristics to them, even if they don’t apply. This creates differences and divisions between people where they may not be any. Negative stereotypes can severely limit communication in the virtual environment. These attitudes are severely damaging, especially when individuals try to communicate without traditional visual cues. In the virtual environment, the traditional cues to the emotions of the person are diffused and your own emotions are heightened. In a virtual environment, communication is me-to-you (M2Y) and much more personal.

Individuals are vastly different and come in many shapes and sizes. Stereotyping is a way of categorizing and labeling that dehumanizes. It discounts the vast array of human differences that make a person unique, distinct and an individual. It is human nature. A strong part of every language is labeling people, places and things. It is also human nature to have opinions and make judgments. But these labels labels bring along with them false expectations and pre-dispositions. This can also create a backlash reaction where people react negatively when the people do not fit the stereotype. For example, we meet a woman who loves math and is superior with numbers there is something about her we just don’t like. When we stereotype we judge by the expectations of others (Whelan, 2013). Stereotyping makes it very difficult to listen without prejudging the conversation. This is difficult in a F2F environment but even more difficult online. In order to lead in a virtual environment, we want to discover what stereotypes we hold on to and how this may influence our inter-actions.

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