When two mature people “argue” on a subject, even if they do not reach an agreement, they end up learning both by listening to the arguments of the other, earning something new or getting a different point of view that enriches both of them.
When in the discussion, however, take part a person with prejudices who hears only what he wants to hear and believes in what he wants to believe, the conversation will be useless because there will be no arguments or explanations that can make him reason or at least understand our point of view.
Unfortunately, the world is full of people with prejudices, and we too might have behaved ourselves this way a few times. Trying to reason with a person hiding behind his prejudices is not only useless, but emotionally disturbs us too. The first step to avoid falling into the trap is to learn to recognize them.
How to recognize people with prejudices?
People with prejudices are those who form an opinion, generally of a negative nature, about something or someone before they know the matter.
These people judge things before knowing them, and the worst thing is that they are not able to change their minds when facing the facts.
– They have a system of rigid values and criticize hardly everything that goes beyond it.
– They have a dichotomous thought, like “all or nothing”. so they are not able to understand the different shades of life.
– They believe their point of view is the only one correct, and everyone else is wrong.
– They only focus on facts that validate their opinions by ignoring any evidence against them.
– They quickly deal with inferences, based on their limited experience, and apply these generalizations to everyone.
– They’re not interested in reaching agreements with the others, but only to assert their own opinion.
Why you shouldn’t talk to these people?
Talking with these people is useless. The problem is that from the beginning they are barricaded in their prejudices, they do not open themselves to new ideas and are not able to adopt an empathic attitude.
These people tend to put into practice what they know as selective listening, meaning they focus only on the parts of the speech that validate their ideas, ignoring the rest.
They are also specialists in directing the conversation and using emotional manipulation, so it’s likely that you eventually end up recognizing mistakes or defects that are not yours.
Since their goal is not to understand you, but to criticize, it is better not to fall into their game. It is therefore important not to let your emotional equilibrium be altered. Accept that this is their opinion and they will not change it. Therefore, you can resolve the issue by saying, “I understand that this is your opinion, but I do not share it. I think it makes no sense to continue talking about it”.
Persons with prejudices end up being victims of their own prejudices
If you are a person with prejudices, you must know that you are socially disadvantaged. A group of psychologists at the Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich found that prejudices are only useful in the short term, to form a quick idea of the person we are in front of us, but in the long run they become limiting and damaging.
In the experiment, the psychologists made involved the participants in a computer game where they could follow two strategies: be friendly or hostile. However, if a player was friendly and met with another who was not, he lost. Therefore, the persons could decide which strategy to adopt, even on the basis of a quick analysis of their opponent, with a prejudice.
The psychologists have thus discovered that people with prejudices did not learn from their mistakes, so they were not able to adjust their behavior and kept losing. The problem is that prejudices do not serve us as a compass when social situations are more complex and only do that we judge the person we are facing in the wrong way or in a partial way, that we’re blind to signals that show that we are out of the way.
Since people with prejudices rely only on one characteristic, they often lose the sight of the general picture, and this will ensure that they lose good opportunities or will be socially isolated.
Chadefaux, T. & Helbing, D. (2012) The Rationality of Prejudices. PLoS ONE; 7(2): e30902.