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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

5 Tips for Overcoming Bias

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

A tall stick figure bridges the gap between two cliff faces.
Biases divide, forming barriers to effective communication. Overcome biases to connect and communicate.

Discrimination, prejudice, unequal treatment, harassment – just a few of the negative consequences resulting from the biases humans hold for one another.

When others speak differently, look different, have different beliefs and traditions, vote differently, even cheer for different sports teams, we can harbor biases that prevent us from communicating effectively, working together, serving one another with fairness, and more.

In last week’s blog, we explored the importance of becoming aware of our implicit biases and the negative impact of bias. In today’s blog, we will shift from problem to solution as we consider ways we can bridge the divide that biases form between us and others, using evidence-based approaches.

5 Tips for Overcoming Bias

The following 5 tips provide proven approaches for overcoming bias followed by a practical action step. We can more effectively communicate with clients, patients, peers, and audiences of all types when biases and assumptions held by both communicators and receivers are recognized and effectively overcome.

Tip #1: Become aware of bias

The first step in overcoming implicit biases is awareness. These biases are unconscious so we exhibit them without thinking. They include the attitudes, prejudices, and stereotypes we have learned or developed related to how we view a type or group of people. Biases affect our understanding, actions, and decisions, and can form barriers to effective communication.

Action step – Become aware of my biases using the assessments linked in this blog post.

Tip #2: Explore below the surface

Biases are often related to characteristics such as race, body size, age, gender, disability, or economic class, and are based on what can be seen on the surface. Once we become aware of our potential biases, our next step is to explore below the surface and seek to truly know others. Ask thoughtful questions, listen well, and share stories to gain a deeper understanding.

Action step – Engage in conversations using prompts and questions that encourage deeper sharing and are appropriate to the situation. See below for some examples.

Tip #3: Demonstrate humility

As we listen and learn from others, we must suspend judgment. Replace it with a humble appreciation for what makes each person unique. Recognize the value of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Respect the differences that make our world stronger. Communicate guidance that is welcomed by the recipient and is sensitive to their culture and experience.

Action step – Listen to others without formulating a response to give our point of view or experience. Instead, seek more information with genuine interest.

Tip #4: Build trust

Communication is a relational activity. As we form and nurture connections with others trust is built. Trust is essential for open and productive communication and is built on mutual respect between communicator and audience member. Trust promotes a willingness to listen, to learn, and to let go of the implicit biases that form barriers to communication.

Action step – Make eye contact and check for understanding by expressing what we hear and perceive.

Tip #5: Advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion

Biases separate and divide. They create haves and have-nots, insiders and outsiders. To truly overcome biases, we must advocate for equity over favoritism, diversity over uniformity, and inclusion over exclusion. We can examine policies and practices, identify and address injustices, and take the lead in creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive profession.

Action step – Speak up when we witness biased treatment or practices. Make a difference.

Questions that can help us gain a deeper understanding of others:

  • Help me understand what it’s like to be you.

  • If you could only use 5 words to describe yourself, what would they be?

  • What life changes have you experienced recently?

  • What is one thing people would never know about you just by looking at you?

  • What is the first thing you notice about another person?

  • For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

  • What is the best thing that happened to you in the past week?

  • Have you ever made a decision that was life-changing? What was it?

  • What’s something you could teach me about?

  • What inspires you?

  • What have been the most challenging times of your life? How did you get through them?

  • How would you like your future to look?

  • What things do you wish you could change about the world?

To download a copy of these 5 tips and all of the other free tip sheets, go to:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

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