Dear Reader,

How do stereotypes impact our lives? People can become very wedded to the idea of stereotypes being true as they are based on their own experiences, but we tend to see what we believe and only gather data that backs up our stereotypes.

See the end of this newsletter for more information about ….

  • Managing Challenging Interactions: Future public workshop
  • Do you want to want to attend The Schumacher Conference 2011? Visit for details
  • How can we help you? …. Do you want to develop your confidence, skills or have support in achieving your goals? Take a look at the different ways in which my associates and I can help you.
  • Free support and a taster of our services….. Do you want a taste of what we can offer? Then take a look at our freebies on the website.

Best wishes

Melanie Greene

How do stereotypes impact our lives?

What do we mean by stereotypes? The dictionary defines ‘stereotype’ as:

  • A person or thing that conforms to a fixed or general pattern.
  • A standardised, simplistic image.

The background to this edition of Inspire came about from a discussion I had one night, where two different individuals came up with two classic stereotypes. One person from overseas was talking about how reserved British people are and that all they engage in is small talk. Another talked about how women are good at talking, in fact, they can talk for hours about nothing, while men tend to be less talkative. I think you will agree that these are perhaps ‘standardised, simplistic images’ of us Brits, and of men and women!

I certainly know many talkative men and quiet women. I also know a fair few Brits who happily open up and talk deeply on a range of topics. However, these two people were fairly convinced that their view of the world was correct.

We can have stereotypes about different professions, races, politics, gender, hair colour (fiery tempered reds, dumb blondes!!), short people, tall people, thin or fat people, people from the country or from cities, or from the North or from the South. You name it, we will have stereotypes about it. And we can all fall into using stereotypes, even if we believe we are quite even and fair minded. Having started to write this edition of Inspire I am amazed how in the last 24 hours in discussion with others some minor stereotypes can be revealed by our conversations, including mine!

What stereotypes do you have of others? Think about recent conversations, what stereotypes have they revealed in your thinking or in others’ thinking?

How are stereotypes formed? In order to make sense of the world and the massive amount of information that we gather from our five senses every second of the day we do need to cognitively make generalisations, and delete some information, or else we would become overloaded. Our generalisations are usually based on a mixture of experiences and beliefs. When we are growing up our experiences start to imprint on and create our own unique map of the world.

If you were surrounded by extravert, talkative men and quiet women, then you might start to believe that men are chatty and women aren’t, this would become part of how you see the world. If, however, our father was a ‘silent type’ and our mother was an extravert, we might have a very different view of the world. Our brain then looks out for and tends to pick up evidence that will confirm our beliefs. We only see and hear what we want to see and hear and will tend to dismiss evidence which is contrary to our beliefs. We even have the expression: ‘The exception that proves the rule’, which basically says, ‘oh yeah, there may be exceptions but we are going to ignore them and stick with what we believe’!!

What ‘exception that proves the rule’ have you come across?

'Man is what he believes.’ Anton Chekhov

Stereotypes – good and bad influences. Of course, at its worse, stereotypes turn into prejudice, division, distrust, hatred, conflict and even wars. Stereotypes can also lead us astray in other ways:

  • We can avoid certain professions and jobs, which we might be suited for, but our stereotypes and beliefs might put us off, or we might think we are not right for them as we think we are not that ‘type of person’. I remember wanting to be a trainer but thinking I was not extravert enough to be one. It was only over time that I realised that there are many different types of excellent trainers who do it in their own unique way.
  • We might be put off potential partners, as they did not conform to our stereotype of a romantic partner. With having a number of friends who found love later in life, they often said that their partner didn’t seem the type of person they would usually go out with, but they found they were very well suited. Perhaps with age comes some wisdom to overcome the stereotypes that draw us to unsuitable partners.
  • What we believe, we tend to attract into our lives. If we believe that all strangers are friends we have not yet met, we are going to approach people in a very different way than if we believe that we can’t trust anyone. These two beliefs will impact on our demeanour, body language, how we communicate with others, either attracting or repelling others, creating our own self fulfilling prophecies.

Not all stereotypes are negative. We can think that certain groups of people have lots of positive characteristics. However, as with any stereotype this might not be accurate, and also is often at the expense of another group of people whom these esteemed people are held up against.

What positive and negative consequences of stereotypes have you seen in your work, your life and your community?

Stereotypes in the workplace. It is very easy for people to get stereotyped at work. Having worked with many diverse teams and organisations it is interesting how this can play out in some organisations (but not all, of course!).

  • Field people seeing office staff as unhelpful, not understanding the pressures that they face out in the field. And office staff seeing people working outside of the office ‘gallivanting around the countryside’ and hopeless with paperwork! In one organisation they organised work shadowing so that the office staff went on the road with the field staff for a few days, and vice versa, for them to understand the differing pressures and frustrations that each faced, as well as understanding why they might each have different needs and want things done in a certain way.
  • Staff seeing managers as being controlling kill joys, and never satisfied with anything. While managers seeing their team members as irresponsible, not able to take on responsibilities, can’t be left alone for a minute. On my team working events we explore Transactional Analysis, which helps managers and team members to see that they each need to take responsibility in order to develop Adult to Adult interactions that will foster effective and more enjoyable team relationships.
  • Personality stereotypes are a classic and when I use Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) with some teams and I warn against people saying ‘I am a ENFJ, that is just me, take it or leave it.’ When actually the whole point with MBTI is that we can use our least preferred personality types when we need to. It might take more effort but we can do it. Or we can negatively stereotype personality types that are different from us.
I had one senior manager who was convinced that ‘Perceiving’ types never got their work in on time. In a tower building team exercise with an equal split between ‘Judging’ and ‘Perceiving’ types, both groups actually conformed to type with the J’s getting down to building their tower with little discussion of the various options, just keen to finish the task on time. The Perceiving types spent 15 minutes of the 20 minutes discussing options, then with 5 minutes to go they built a tower that was not only taller, but stronger than the other team, proving the manager wrong about ‘Perceiving’ types, and me correct in that they might leave things to the last minute, but they deliver the goods on most occasions!! Click here for more information on MBTI or email me at if you want to use MBTI with your team, or on a 121 basis.

What can you do to challenge stereotypes? The first thing is to address them in yourself. Catch yourself when you start to think or say: ‘All X are Y’, or ‘The problem with all A’s is they are lazy, good for nothing’ or even ‘All B’s are bright, engaging and sociable’. Start to challenge yourself: is it all people in that group, are their exceptions that you come across that you have dismissed because they don’t fit in with your beliefs and stereotypes? What evidence do you have which supports your beliefs or counters them?

With others it can be harder to challenge stereotypes because they can be built on people’s beliefs that are not always logical, therefore logical arguments do not necessarily work. Also, if we are faced with stereotypes that offend us, we can become emotional which does not help the situation. Therefore, take the following steps to help you to deal with your emotions and react in a constructive manner:

  • Take a few deep breaths, calm down, and even leave it a short while until you are calm enough to talk rationally and logically about this.
  • Ask questions, seek to find out their point of view, ask for examples, and ask them if they have ever found people or situations that don’t conform to those stereotypes.
  • It is often easier to take the approach above, rather than try and argue your differing point of view, as stereotypes are not necessarily based on logic, therefore logical arguments can often lead nowhere.
  • Perhaps agree to disagree, as your viewpoint will be based on your own experiences and beliefs and might be as strong and long held as theirs.
  • As stereotypes are part of how we process and structure the world, perhaps we can just view them as different ways of seeing the world.

‘Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out.’ Sydney Smith


We are looking to run a public workshop near Oxford in November on Managing Challenging Interactions (date to be confirmed). If you are interested in this workshop then email to express your interest. We can also run the Managing Challenging Interactions in-house if you have six or more people who would like to attend it.


Do you want to want to attend The Schumacher Conference 2011? In the August edition of Inspire I wrote about a couple of E F Schumacher’s books, and the revival that is happening around his thinking. One of the readers of Inspire let me know about a conference, which is happening on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th October in Bristol. If you are interested in finding out more visit for details.


How can we help you? …. Do you want to develop your confidence, skills or have support in achieving your goals? Take a look at the different ways in which my associates and I can help you. We have a range of programmes to assist you:

  • A six month Coaching For Excellence Programme to provide intensive coaching support to assist you in bringing about change in your mindset, your mood and state, and the impact these have on you achieving your goals.
  • One off Catalytic Coaching Programmes to unblock whatever it is that is stopping you from changing your behaviour.
  • Ad hoc Coaching Sessions – Today I provided someone with an ad hoc one hour telephone coaching session, which focussed on their issues around mastering their inner critic. It was designed to assist them in getting the most from my book. However, ad hoc coaching sessions can be on any topic.
  • Master Your Inner Critic Online Programme – This includes a series of four e-booklets and four video clips based on my book to support you in putting the techniques and ideas into practice.
  • Effective Team Building Programmes – We have many years of experience running programmes for both senior management and operational teams.
  • Tailored Development Programmes – From one day events to on-going programmes we can design them to meet your needs.

To find out more about these programmes email me on or call me on 01865 377334.


Do you want a taster of our services? Then take a look at our freebies on the website for:

  • Recordings of my free webinars on:
    • Mastering your inner critic.
    • Changing Habits of A Lifetime
    • Improve Your Performance: Learn From Your Mistakes And Successes

Click here to listen to these recordings.

  • Free articles on the following topics:
  • Selling from the Inside Out
  • Managing Mood and Motivation During Challenging Times
  • Supporting others through Challenging Times
  • Master your inner critic
  • Buying in consultancy

Click here to read the articles.

For further book recommendations: click here.


For more information about Inspire Transformation visit our website: or call Melanie on 01865 377334 or email and follow Melanie on Twitter: MelanieInspires.


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Melanie Greene
01865 377334