Reducing prejudices needs to be more than an organizational goal; it needs to be a personal goal for each of us. The following list contains things we can do as individuals to help reduce prejudices within ourselves and in those around us.

1. Acknowledge that you have learned prejudicial information about other people.
Without this acknowledgment nothing can change. Only through an acknowledgment of the prejudicial learnings can the misinformation be openly discussed and dealt with in a way which is likely to bring about change. It is clear that if we can’t talk about it, we surely can’t change it.

2. Confront without guilt or blame the stereotypes that you have learned.

Guilt for having learned information is not really appropriate. It would have been difficult or nearly impossible to avoid learning this information. You probably learned it before you were able to think about the information critically.

To focus on either blame or guilt distracts one from the need for change. It also focuses one's attention from the present into the past and leaves one feeling helpless or powerless to make any changes.

3. Enter a supportive group or a supportive relationship for making the needed changes.
We tend to change our interpersonal behaviors and beliefs most effectively in an interpersonal context. Another person or other people can help us to test new learnings, gain new information, hold us to our insights and our commitments. They can do all this while providing us with support as we try new ideas, behaviors and beliefs.

4. Make a commitment to change and make a commitment to a process of change.
The commitment made to others is a stronger commitment than the one made alone or to oneself. The commitment should be to working on a change process. Simply making a commitment to change is not as likely to result in the modification of behavior as a commitment to change that includes a commitment to a process. It is most effective to make an agreement to meet regularly with someone to discuss how you are both changing. Mutual commitments are both powerful and healthy. In this way, people approach the process as equals and are more likely to adhere to the process of changing.

Keeping these commitments in a log, along with notes on the actions that one has taken, is a helpful way of sharing and supporting each other in a process of mutual prejudice reduction.

5. Become aware of your own "self-talk" about other groups of people.
Becoming aware of one's own "self-talk" is critical in the process of changing the early stereotyped beliefs that one has learned. Talk about where those messages came from and the messages' limiting effect with a person who will be accepting and non-judgmental. Knowing what those messages are is critical to changing them and replacing them with positive messages.

6. Challenge the irrationality of the prejudicial thoughts or "self-talk" statements.
Get information to disprove each prejudicial thought. Most general statements about a population of people are untrue. One only needs to look more closely to see that almost any statement about "them" will fall apart under examination. Take the time to examine and challenge the thoughts that limit or devalue other people.

7. Increase your exposure to or contact with those who belong to the group(s) toward
which you have learned some prejudicial stereotypes.

Misconceptions remain effective only when you avoid contact with those about whom you have misconceptions. It is always helpful to increase your exposure to people that belong to the group about which you have stereotyped thoughts. When you are doing this, besure that you are not making contact in a way which will only affirm your stereotypedbeliefs. In finding people who are representative of this group, you might ask yourself, "Is this the method I would want someone to use who wanted to learn about people of my nationality, race, age, religious belief, or culture?" As you enter this process, keep in mind the tremendous diversity within any group.

8. Thought-stopping is a valuable process for changing one's "self-talk" about others.

It is often helpful to have a pleasant image to focus upon to use as an abrupt interruption to your thoughts whenever you discover that you have started to think stereotypical thoughts about a member of another group. If you plan what image to focus upon and shift to that image very suddenly each time you think the stereotyped thought, it weakens the stereotyped thought. Your replacement image might be of something strongly positive about this group of people or about the absolute absurdity of the stereotype you learned. In building these images, it might be helpful to try making generalized statements about all the people who might be seen as "like you" in some aspect. Experience the difficulty in this process.

9. Make use of the Premack Principle, a small rule that has power for change.
Making something one does often or something one likes to do contingent upon doing one's positive practice is one of the most effective ways of ensuring it gets done. For example, one might agree to meet with or report to one's partner each week before taking out the trash or filling the car with gas or some other task. Tying the two tasks together in an agreement is an effective way of making and keeping a commitment.

One might also use this principle in changing one's "self talk". To do this, one might agree to say an affirming statement about a group of people every time he or she sees a member of that group.

10. Learn how other groups see your own identity group.
Learn from those in other groups how your own group is seen. This may take time because one needs to develop a trusting relationship. When their stereotypes about your own group are shared, don’t defend or deny them; instead, hear them as being as likely and as valid as your own stereotypes about other groups. Let yourself understand and accept how this view might be shared and believed by those who don’t have your experience.

11. Feeling good about ourselves is important in being able to accept people who
are different from us.

We need to develop a strong sense of security. People need to feel secure enough to be self-critical and to accept and learn from critical feedback by others. Those who are unable to accept critical feedback often project blame onto those who are different from themselves.

12. Accepting indecision is an important learning style.
We need to develop an acceptance within ourselves for indecision. To be undecided is not only acceptable, but often desirable over having fast answers before all the needed information is available. To be in a position of not knowing and not reaching a conclusion is a valid position. This often requires a sense of self-acceptance and personal security. The need to have a correct answer quickly and not accepting the uncertainty of not knowing is strongly associated with being prejudiced.

13. Developing empathy skills is an effective way of increasing our acceptance of others.
The ability to empathize with others is a teachable skill and is highly related to tolerance. There is no other skill that has been so clearly shown as being related to acceptance of others. The work of Gerard Egan, George Gazda, Norman Kagan and others is important here. Some of these people's books are very usable.

14. Develop listening skills so that we can really hear other people.
We need to develop listening skills and an appreciation for listening to other people.

15. Develop an appreciation for the complexities of the universe.
Knowing that one truth does not preclude another is an important concept. We need to develop and nurture our own appreciation for the complexities of theuniverse. Our ability to accept contradictory truths is related to our tolerance for others. It is important to accept that there are truths that, "I won’t understand." It is also important to recognize that what may appear to be conflicting and contradictory at first glance are not always so. One example of this is, "I am like all other humans," while at the same time, "I am like no other human."

16. Developing our own ability to experience caring about other people
Is not only important for them, but allows us to be touch with our own connectedness and adds
meaning to our lives. We need to show caring, even for those people who are unable to return the caring at this time. Because our lives are interconnected, the world is simply too small for us to not care anymore.

17. Learning about other groups is an important way to develop understanding.
We need to learn about those groups we might feel prejudice toward. It is helpful to read about these groups in books the members of the groups have written, and it's also helpful to go out of our way to visit with members of these groups.

18. Valuing diversity in human appearance and in nature is important.
Diversity is the reality of nature and the strength of a species. We need to think and behave in ways which value and learn from diversity. This is not only in the area of racial diversity, but also in diverse ways of thinking, problem-solving and the many other ways in which people differ that affect human interactions. We cannot expect ourselves or others to value one type of diversity and reject others.

19. Seeking self-understanding increases the ability to accept oneself and others.
We need to personally value and seek self-understanding. Those who are self-aware and self-critical are less likely to blame others. They know their own shortcomings and capabilities and have the self-esteem to accept responsibility for their behaviors.

20. Responding to prejudicial jokes is critical if we are to stand for something and identify

Initially, we need to respond to prejudicial jokes in a way that clearly communicates two things:

1) That we do not believe the person intended to harm others.
2) That we personally find meaning in the joke that is harmful.

It is nearly impossible to make general statements about prejudicial jokes, but it is helpful to speak up and it is helpful not to read intent into a situation where it may not exist. A response is needed when the joke is at the expense of any group. It is this type of humor which is harmful. Initially it is most effective to use a "minimal non-response." That means that we make it clear that we do not appreciate the humor or find it funny, but we do not alienate the person or lose our position for future influence by overreacting. If the other person’s prejudicial joke telling continues, it is appropriate to continue protesting the jokes and making the protests stronger. I know one person who starts by simply saying he does not find the joke humorous.

21. Responding to negative terms about groups of people helps us to know what we
stand for and helps others to know us as well.

We need to respond to static terms or names for other groups of people in ways which show that we feel that the use of these terms is inappropriate. (This should be the response when the term is at the expense of any group. It's the process which is harmful.) It is most effective to use a "minimal non-response." We are of little value in helping another person to reduce their prejudice if we reject or define them as a worthless bigot.

22. Research your investments so that you are only investing in firms with strong policies of affirmative action and respect for human rights.
Many of us may have our savings in tax shelters which may not be socially responsible. I discovered that while one state university had mission statements about both education and health, it invested much of the employees' retirement funds in the tobacco industry. I suggest that you check your investments in The Better World Investment Guide.


Alport, Gordon (1954), The Nature of Prejudice, Addison Wesley Publishing Company.

Alperson, Myra (1991), The Better World Investment Guide, Council on Economic Priorities, Prentice Hall Press.

Combs, Arthur (1971), Helping Relationships: Basic Concepts for the Helping Professions, Allyn and Bacon, Inc.

Egan,Gerard (1977), You and Me: The Skills of Communicating and Relating to Others, Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Gazda, George (1973), Human Relations Development: A Manual for Educators, Allyn and Bacon, Inc.

Rosenthal, Robert (1968), Pygmalion in The Classroom, Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

Commitment to Reduce Unintentional Prejudices

I ,___________________, realize and acknowledge that I learned many stereotypes as a
child. I also understand that these stereotypes do, at times, affect my behavior and are
expressed as unintentional prejudices. I know that the stereotypes that I have learned
may be very diverse, but they are most likely related to other people's race, sex, ethnic
origin, age, sexual identity, religion, or disability. In order to reduce the tendency within
myself to use these old stereotypes that I did not choose to learn, I am making a
commitment to reduce these unintentional prejudices by taking the following steps:
To help me with this task I will work with a partner, _____________________
_____________________ (name), who will help me to keep my commitment and will
provide me with suggestions about other activities that I can do to reduce my tendency to
think in or use stereotypes. We will meet to discuss my efforts
on _____________________(dates) at _____________ (times) in
__________________________(location). In exchange for this support I agree to
support my partner in his/her efforts to reduce his/her prejudices.

I will do this by:
1.) Appreciating the effort my partner extends.
2.) Respectfully providing ideas for activities which will increase my partner’s knowledge
of, and exposure to, those people my partner might have learned prejudices toward or
learned stereotypes about.
3.)Keeping faith in my partner’s desire to move beyond the early prejudices that he/she
learned as a child.
Signature _______________________________ Date ____________________


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