Stereotype-Fu: A sense of humor

Continuing my series on Stereotype-fu, let's take a look at another way to deal with stereotypes in the job and career.

I should note that I'm talking about the more innocent (or stupid) ones – not the nasty, negative stereotypes that we all know a bit to well – those that judge people by ethnicity, or gender, region of borth etc.  Those are areas outside the scope of what I'm discussing.

So when you're afraid you're being affected by stereotypes in your workplace, on an interview, etc. another tool is a sense of humor.

Humor is an incredibly powerful tool in the careerists aresnal because it has four functions:

  1. It disarms others and mellows their approach.
  2. It keeps you from looking pretentious or troubled or angry.
  3. It creates connections.
  4. It displays self-awareness

The sign to use humor in your interactions, to beat stereotypes, is when people are obviously stereotyping you in a non-malicious way.  When it appears that interviewer thinks you're a typical geek, when that client assumes you're an artist without common sense, etc.  When those innocent – but wrong – stereotypes come up – then humor is one of the pieces to put into play.

Have a laugh about it.  Indicate how you do fit the stereotype – AND don't.  Admit you're a typical nerd – with that special business sense.  Admit you're an artist type – but you know you had to gain financial skills and worked on it.  Have a laugh at both how you fit the stereotype – and how you don't.

Humor displays self-awareness, and self-awareness helps people break out of their narrow thinking – accidental as it may be.  By laughing at it you've disarmed the situation and connected with the person.  You've shown a maturity – and you've shown an awareness of the stereotypes.

Best of all, you may have taught someone a lesson and they may not even realize it.  They see you a bit different now – and may see others differently.

– Steven Savage