Lean into the awkwardness
Bias is a tricky topic to approach, but that doesn’t scare Soledad. “I feel like I have my Ph.D. in uncomfortable topics,” she jokes. When it comes to bias, she believes the first step is recognizing it exists. Sure, that can lead to uneasy conversations—but pushing through the awkwardness is the only way to overcome it. “Bias is not inherently terrible,” she explains. “It’s just a reality. What’s terrible is when you know you have a bias and you don’t do anything about it.”
Soledad is quick to point out her own biases, too. “I have a ton,” she admits. For one, “I have a bias for people who are like me,” a tendency that became clear when she was hiring for her media company. However, once she identified her bias, largely through conversation with her husband, Soledad sought out a way to counterbalance it. How? By building a hiring team to generate fairer conversations around each candidate.
Soledad also warns of the dangers of confirmation bias, where people consciously or unconsciously seek out or interpret information in a way that affirms their own beliefs. Especially in this digital age, she says, “We can completely self-select what kind of information and content we want.” That’s great for staying within comfort zones, but not so great when trying to search for a more objective truth.
Confirmation bias often manifests itself online, where partisan news sources and social media algorithms can keep people in an echo chamber. But it also comes into play during in-person interactions. “We want to be embraced by people,” Soledad says, which means we tend to favor and surround ourselves with others who support our personal views.
“If you were in a room where I paid half the people to nod and clap as you spoke, and the other half to scowl at you, I guarantee you would prefer the side that was giving you positive feedback,” she explains. “Even if I asked you why you liked them more, you might not consciously be able to articulate it—but it would be because they sent you signals that they agreed with you.”
In other words, it’s easy to fall victim to biases without realizing it. But that doesn’t let anyone off the hook. Instead, it increases our responsibility to reflect on our own views. To search for our implicit biases, acknowledge them, and find ways to move past them. Even if it gets a little awkward.