Here's an experiment you can try for a few minutes.
Go to a public place. A mall, a bookstore, a restaurant. Someplace with a lot of strangers.
Then walk or sit and people watch. Don't stare--we're not trying to get in a fight or creep anyone out. But I want you to notice the thoughts that pop into your head about each person you see.
When I do this, I notice how quickly I form conclusions about people. How quickly I assume that someone is nice, or a jerk. I sometimes write a story about them on the spot. Where they live, where they work. Whether their kids like them, whether they're a jerk in the office.
We do this all the time. This is what human brains do. They try to make sense of the world. They build models and draw conclusions.
But I have to ask myself, is this prejudice (which literally means means prejudgment) actually helpful?
I notice I even have a reaction to the label "prejudice."
I'm not sure that we can wire our brains to be different. But, as this exercise shows, we can at least notice how often we do it. And, once we are conscious of it, we can choose to give less weight to it.
Maybe the person who rushed past me is dealing with a sick relative. Maybe the person who glared at me just got off a difficult phone call.
Maybe, just like me, and just like you, everyone is trying to do their best. In each and every moment.
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