Do you think it’s possible for anyone to be fully objective? Write your first thoughts down.

Examining Assumptions


When we consider interpersonal connection it’s important to remember that we only ever see part of a person’s story. Just as only about 10% of an iceberg is visible above the water, much of anyone’s story is below the surface. Like the iceberg, there is so much we can’t see or know about another person. When faced with these unknowns, our brains often begin to fill in those blank spaces with assumptions. When we do, we create a narrative about another person based largely on what WE know from our past experiences, and OUR worldview – which is not going to be accurate or helpful in building connection. It is essential we realize that there is so much we cannot see. We must challenge our assumptions and choose to acknowledge our biases and then put them behind us.

Listening to understand – without filling in the gaps – is essential in peer support work. Most of us aren’t really taught to listen in this way. It takes practice. And it’s worth it.

Perception and Noticing our Judgements

Noticing our judgments always starts with self-examination and self-awareness. We need to see our mental containers and change the way we perceive them. We must understand that no one sees objectively–we are each seeing through our own worldview and interpreting through the containers we have formed to make sense of things. Bringing awareness to our judgments means questioning our perceptions and containers.

Neuroscientists call this “perceptual awareness.” Simply put, perceptual awareness means that we have an awareness that our perceptions are grounded in our assumptions and biases. When we develop this awareness, we can begin to expand our containers, becoming better able to really listen so we can begin to understand.

We can challenge our unconscious biases when we become mindfully aware that we all have them.

Mindfulness is noticing things.

Here we will unpack how our biases get stuck in our subconscious. The way we can unpack these biases is to constantly reflect on our reactions and question ourselves, especially when making quick decisions. We need to disrupt our biases and create more tolerance for difference, with the end goal of becoming more open. Dr. Beau Lotto, in his book Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently (2017) says:

…if you want to go from A to B, then you must actively engage with the world. But the first step to get to B is to go from A to not-A. To be in not-A is to be in uncertainty, to experience the stimulus without the requisite meaning of the past. The key is to choose to look away from the meaning we have been layering onto stimuli. Stop your reflexive response with awareness. (p 260)

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Post-Secondary Peer Support Training Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Jenn Cusick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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