Identifying Conditioned Biases to Improve Communication

Coworkers communicating effectively after learning how to identify conditioned biases in the workplace from Learn2

Conditioned biases are unconscious beliefs that shape the ways we interact with the world around us. These types of biases, if left unchecked, can affect our workplaces and our ability to collaborate effectively with our team members. By addressing conditioned biases and dealing with them in ways that honor lived experiences and sensitivities, you can enhance communication, productivity, and team member satisfaction.

What is Conditioned Bias?

Over time, we are conditioned by the systems within which we operate to believe certain things. Some of these beliefs live on the surface of our minds, and we are readily aware of what they are and the ways they influence our speech and actions. However, there are other ways of thinking that we have internalized so deeply that we likely do not even realize how they sway us to think and do particular things. The latter are conditioned biases.

What Causes Conditioned Cognitive Bias?

Conditioned or cognitive biases are the results of the ways and where we were raised, the education we have had access to, as well as the professional environments we work in. They tend to be a combination of our emotional responses to things as well as the social and cultural settings we are conditioned by. When these cognitive biases remain unchecked, they will likely not just disappear on their own but begin to shape our realities more deeply.

Types of Conditioned Biases and How they Affect Communication

Confirmation Bias

This type of bias is when you seek to confirm your concerns about the ways an audience is perceiving what you are saying. What this may look like is if you sense your audience to be hostile towards your comments, you will find indicators of this and focus on them until they confirm what you believe.

To avoid this tendency, it’s best to go into situations with an open mind and focus on your delivery – rather than trying to home in on particular people’s reactions.

Illusion of Transparency

This cognitive bias occurs when we allow ourselves to feel like the people we are speaking to can hear our thoughts and readily recognize our internal feelings – especially those of nervousness or embarrassment.

To prevent this sensation from overwhelming our ability to perform and communicate more effectively, it can help to request that someone records your speech on video or that you record yourself delivering an upcoming presentation. You will quickly see you look much more prepared and calmer on the outside than you may think.

Presumption of Knowledge

Just because you know something does not mean your collaborators do as well. By making this assumption, you run the risk of leaving out key points of clarification and creating confusion.

Try to always take a step back and consider your subject matter as though it were brand new. Deliver all the necessary information to bring your audiences up to speed and then build on this knowledge towards consensus and understanding.

Assumption of Judgement

When we assume our listeners are judging us – based on our looks, background, age or what we say – it can cause us to speak defensively and shut down.

Prior to communicating, remind yourself that people will not judge you nearly as harshly as you think. Likely, they are just doing their best to appear engaged and deliver on whichever responsibilities they too are required to own.

Learn to Improve Communication by Identifying Conditioned Biases in the Workplace

Identifying cognitive biases in the workplace can be difficult, which can make dispelling them challenging. This is especially true when you are seeking to do so by solely involving the same people who may accidentally perpetuate these biases.

By working with Learn2, an external professional development organization, you will be more readily able to address and dismantle conditioned biases. In turn, organization-wide communications will improve, and so will the confidence and competence of your team members.

About Author

Doug Bolger is the world’s foremost instructional designer for participant-driven designs. He is changing how the world works, by changing how the world learns.


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