Generalizations Cloud Reality – An Exercise to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Six blind men felt up an elephant and described what  they  personally felt this.

An generalization image

Commonly known as the False or Hasty Generalization, Lonely Fact Fallacy or  Statistics of Small Numbers, the blind men drew their conclusions based on a partial sampling of the whole. When you draw a conclusion based on a small sample you are distorting reality.

We all generalize, and as Mark Twain said, “All generalizations are false, including this one.”

We need to generalize and are programmed to do so. We put things in categories just as we put socks in one drawer and undershirts or bras in another; milk in the refrigerator and bread in the bread box. Makes life and decision-making easier.

Also makes for prejudicial thinking. Here’s a personal example. When I was five I was punched in the stomach by a ten or twelve-year-old redhead. I didn’t know why and didn’t know the kid who punched me. But it certainly influenced my thoughts about red-heads for a number years. Had a few more punched me out, I might have been set against red heads for life. Not useful.

Let me tell you another personal story. For a number of years I lived and worked in all white Vermont. I rarely saw a person of color. Then on a trip home I got off the train in midtown Philadelphia and headed for the subway. When the doors opened the car was packed with people of a dark color. My heart stopped briefly, but I realized my moment of fear was truly a False Expectations Appearing Real and climbed in kept on my way home.

Both stories explain a bit about prejudices. The bulk arise in situations like my early encounter with the red-headed bully.

A BITTER FACT: Personal experiences tend to make you identify with those who seem to be suffering a similar hurt. Think of the killing of a student protester at Kent State. Students seeing that image will be horrified.  Stories of rape or even groping will horrify rape victims.  Dissed by a cop and you will be disposed to think of cops as bullies.

The second source of prejudice arises from our genetic programming to be wary of strangers. The known is much safer than the unknown.Which is why those seeking to build tolerance suggest getting to know those who are not like you.

Combine the two and prejudices grow.  There is however, a third factor. Our personal experiences and beliefs are strengthened by the voices of authority surrounding us as we grow. We either identify with those voices or stand against them.

Emotional Fitness Exercise

First: List your prejudices. Love Hillary? Hate Trump? Love Your Religion? Hate those who believe other wise? An Atheist opposed to all religions? Live in an all white neighborhood and don’t want its coloring to change? Think Black Lives Matter? All Italians are Mafia owned? Southerners Rednecks? Northerners Yankees? All Blacks are lazy? All Whites Black oppressing? Love Cops? Understand Criminals? Think Cuba is great? The USA terrible?

Next: Sort out what personal experiences are involved in your prejudices: How many bad experiences have you had.

Then: think about which of your prejudices  are based on not knowing many people of the kind you distrust or do not interact with.

Then: Note which of your prejudices are reinforced by the people in your family, the friends you seek, the news you watch, the generally culture surrounding you.

Finally: Pick on prejudice and work to reduce it. Just knowing the roots helps, but also exposing yourself to beliefs that run counter to yours and doing so with an open mind is required to rid your heart of false generalizations about people.

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Links of Interest

These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

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