By Eric Peterson | April 16, 2019
As a child, my mother often coached me on what I should do if I ever got lost.
First, she said, look for a policeman. If you can’t find a policeman, look for another mother. I suppose she assumed that a mother would naturally understand the enormity of the situation and would be intrinsically motivated to help a lost and defenseless child.
When I was about five years old, my family lived on a United States military base in Spain. One day, my mother took my sister and I to a crowded plaza in the nearby village. Sure enough, I was separated from them both. I maintain to this day that I stood exactly where I was supposed to, and it was my mother who wandered off, but she remembers things a little differently. In any event, at one point I looked up and realized that I was on my own. I was scared.
But my training quickly kicked in, and I scanned the crowd for a shiny policeman’s uniform. After a few moments of searching, with no officer in sight, I reverted to my mother’s “Plan B”. Soon enough, I found a child my age, and – as my gaze traveled upward – a woman who I assumed to be her mother.
I didn’t know a lot of Spanish, but enough to walk up to her and say, as sweetly and innocently as I could, “Estoy perdido” – “I’m lost.”
Immediately, this strange woman began screaming at me in Spanish. I didn’t catch every word, but I knew she was assuring me that we would find my mother and that I’d be fine. She lifted me onto her shoulders, shouting, “¿Donde esta tu madre?”
Not knowing what else to do, I shouted, “Mom!” and faintly heard my name in response, from somewhere in the crowd.
Soon, I could see my mother making her way to me, panicked, my sister in tow. We found my mother. I was fine.
And in that moment, I learned something: mothers are good people. Better people than other kinds of people. Mothers were people you could trust. Mothers will help you.
That lesson never left me. When I meet someone new, a client or perhaps a friend of a friend, and that person happens to be a woman who says something like, “y’know, my daughter said to me just the other day …”, I can feel it happen. I like that person a little more. She’s a good person. I can trust her.
I tell this story often, usually when I’m trying to explain to people how biases can form, and how our lived experience has a profound effect on our beliefs and our behaviors.
I could just say, “Your lived experience has a profound effect on your beliefs and your behaviors.” It would certainly be more succinct. But what you gain in efficiency, you lose in emotion, power, and understanding.
Simply put, stories have power. They can transform how we relate to one another.Stories have power, and they can transform how we relate to one another Click To Tweet
That’s why when I was recently charged to create a new tool for our clients: a series of videos called “Press PAUSE,” I wanted to ensure storytelling was at the center of the tool.
The Cook Ross PAUSE Model™ is a tool used to disrupt bias as it occurs. Using an easy step-by-step process, it invites you to stop and investigate your reaction to a situation for bias before moving into action.
We wanted to deliver the power of storytelling to our clients in this video series to ensure those who watched these videos would be able to easily recall the model and use it every day.
The videos explain the PAUSE Model™ and delve into specific topics around bias, including clues that bias might be present, brain anatomy, social psychology, and yes – how our lived experience has a profound effect on our beliefs and our behaviors.
It was my job to coach my colleagues to recall stories for themselves to tell.
It was important to me that my colleagues wouldn’t simply look into a camera lens and recite a list of facts and figures. I knew that the project couldn’t be what it was meant to be without storytelling.
We were able to explain to our audience how they can mitigate bias in their everyday lives, but along the way we heard stories like:
- When our Founder, Howard Ross, encountered a radiologist who looked like “Angry Santa Claus”
- When our Director of Learning & Innovation, Shilpa Alimchandani, learned how to teach a familiar workshop in a very different culture
- How our Senior Consultant, Kimberly (Rattley) Dailey, grew up with a powerful mother and her positive working relationships with women in power today
- When Principal Consultant, Rosalyn Taylor O’Neale, had lunch with a brilliant, blind interviewee
- And, when Consultant, Bart Bailey, had a courageous conversation with a man in confederate adorned attire.
I didn’t get to tell my story about being lost at the age of five, but I told another – about learning to drive as a young white man, and how my experience is very different from the experience of most young men of color.
We know from our work at Cook Ross (and Howard can tell you all about it in the “Press PAUSE” video series preview below) that emotion and logic are processed in two separate parts of the brain, and that emotion has a direct link to memory.
Stories can build a bridge between the parts of your brain that process facts with the parts of your brain that process emotions, making it that much easier for people to remember the kinds of concepts and theories that can spur both personal and cultural transformation.Stories can bridge the parts of our brain that process facts and emotions, making it easier to remember the concepts needed to spur personal and cultural transformation Click To Tweet
It’s why you won’t have a conversation with one of our consultants that lasts very long before we’re apt to say, “Let me tell you a story about that.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how we crafted the Press PAUSE video series and getting a preview of the videos in action, join our Director of Learning & Innovation for a web seminar on Wednesday, May 1st at 2pm ET by clicking the button below.
Eric C. Peterson, MSOD is a Senior Consultant with Cook Ross Inc. He is a recognized facilitator and educator in the diversity and inclusion space with over 18 years of experience in Unconscious Bias, diversity and inclusion, learning strategies, and organization development.