Posts Tagged ‘generalisations’

When generalisations are unhelpful

July 30, 2013

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a comment, such as ‘Women can’t read maps’?

bigstock-Road-map-vector-29941610

Or ‘Men don’t listen’

And when was the last time you were the perpetrator of such a comment; e.g. …‘You never offer to help me with household jobs!’

Or ‘You’re always late!’

If you’re on the receiving end of such generalisations it can result in anger or frustration, and often a retaliatory comment.

But wait … Generalisations are a helpful way of making sense of the world.

As a child you would have been told the name of objects, such as door, spoon, ball, etc. … and then these labels would be given to other doors, spoons, balls, which were different but you’d work out that they shared common features. Then eventually you would be able to label other doors using this new found knowledge, without anyone telling you!

So our ability to generalise saves us from re-learning things over and over again.

It’s when we make generalisations about human behaviour that it can get us into trouble!

Some tips …

If you hear yourself making generalisations, listen out for the verbal clues that can accompany them.

For example: use of the following words … all, every, never, always

  • He/She never delivers a good presentation
  • Every time I make a suggestion, you ignore it
  • always receive negative feedback when I try to introduce something new

This unhelpful language often limits us to take action, move forward, choose something different, and see the positive actions of others.

So, whenever  you hear yourself making general statements, ask yourself the following:

  • What never? / Always? / Every time?
  • How helpful is this statement to me?

Which unhelpful generalisations have you heard or made recently?

How have you dealt with generalisations directed at you?

 

Some women CAN read maps!

August 3, 2011

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a comment or inference that, because you’re a woman, you can’t read maps (or because you’re a man, you don’t listen), then you may understand the frustration and annoyance that goes with this kind of generalisation. (I actually happen to be very good at reading maps!)

Yes, men and women are different, and there are several books available to suggest reasons why. You may have your own favourite.

Such general statements come about as a result of our ability to make generalisations as we interact with the world around us. As a child, we learn labels for things in our immediate environment; door, chair, bed, shoes, etc. Initially, we assume that word represents that particular item only, until we come across other doors, shoes, chairs. Then we use this information to generalise. We quickly learn that ‘door’ could come in many forms and sizes.

Fortunately, the ability to generalise saves us from re-learning things over and over again. However, we need to err on the side of caution when making generalisations regarding human behaviour.

I recently overheard a comment that ALL drivers of a certain make of car were reckless and dangerous, after the person making the comment had been “cut up” by the driver of such a car. This type of statement gives an unhelpful label to such car owners, and can lead to further prejudice if not checked.

Tip

If you hear yourself making generalisations, listen out for the verbal clues that can accompany them. For example: use of the following words … all, every, never, always…

  • He/She never delivers a good presentation
  • Every time I make a suggestion, you ignore it
  • I always receive negative feedback when I try to introduce something new

This unhelpful language often limits us to take action, move forward, choose something different, and see the positive actions of others.

So, whenever  you hear yourself making general statements, ask yourself the following:

  • Never? / Always? / Every time?
  • How helpful is this statement to me?

Which unhelpful generalisations have you heard / made recently?