I once told a youthful and entrepreneurial friend of mine that I was having trouble viewing his website. He responded, “You need to update your browser. A lot of older people use the one you have on your computer.”
I’ve found it best to pause before responding to comments like these. After counting to 5, I responded, “That’s called ageism-prejudice or discrimination against a particular age group.” I refrained from calling him a whippersnapper, although it was on the tip of my tongue. While he seemed to get my point of view, the incident started me thinking.
How often do we all make snap judgments based on stereotypes? More often than we care to admit. I rarely associate youth and wisdom, but that said, I know mature people who have managed to avoid accumulating any wisdom or insight during their lives. I guess we all associate youth with vitality, but we all know teens who are confirmed couch potatoes or spend inordinate amounts of time glued to their smart phones.
Here at Health Alliance, we work with some folks who require more support and information. Others want to cut to the chase and get on with their lives. Impatience doesn’t seem to be a trait associated with any particular age, does it?
It seems to be human nature to hold stereotypes dear, even subconsciously. We all have experiences that color our perceptions, so what’s the problem with making assumptions based on our own biases?
Prejudice stops us from fully experiencing the people in our lives. It’s easy to drop people into simple, broad categories and focus on more important things, like our own busy lives. The loss occurs when we dismiss people without getting to know them as individuals. Having preconceived ideas about any group saves time, but it diminishes our chance to get to really appreciate someone as a fellow human being instead of a representative of their subset.
I’m making a concerted effort to be more sensitive with the words I use, and I am trying to be aware when I make a snap judgment. I know some of you feel you are prejudice-free. Ask yourselves if you are truly non-biased or just kidding yourself.
Actually, I meant to say, ask yourselves if you are being naive and lacking in experience.
Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.