How Do Stereotypes Affect Communication?

A stereotype is a held belief about a group of people that has no scientific basis but that affects how a person perceives and analyses communication. Stereotyping leads to bias and a lack of empathy when communicating with other people. One of the ways stereotyping has an effect on the way people communicate is through stereotype threat. Studies show that this happens often in classrooms and work places.

Stereotype threat is when a person does not perform or communicate to the best of his ability because he is feeling self-conscious of his perceived minority status. A woman may not speak up when she is a part of a group comprised mostly of men due to stereotype threat. Often but not always, persons of any racial or ethic background may feel a need to stifle their communication when surrounded by people outside of their own group.

When stereotype threat affects communication in the work place or classroom, there are simple practices that can be used to remedy the situation. These practices focus on minimizing negative subtext and allowing an open flow of information between participants. When these practices are implemented successfully, people focus on ideas rather than group identities and stereotypes.