While you’ve been reading this blog, you may be thinking about that loaded word, “stereotyping,” of which the dictionary definition is, “a conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image—one that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type.”From very early in our life, one lesson, which we all learn is that stereotyping is bad, bad, bad.

And I know, from very early in our life, one lesson, which we all learn is that stereotyping is bad, bad, bad. I disagree. Not because I think stereotyping is good, good, good. I just wouldn’t generalize it that way.

What is the difference between stereotyping and judging?

Stereotyping provides humans with the ability to quickly sort out patterns in a randomly diverse world filled with people of every size, shape, gender, age, color, and sexual orientation. And it’s just a quick first pass, nothing more.

Stereotyping is just a quick first pass, nothing more. Click To Tweet

It gives people a pattern they can use to understand, learn, and grow. This positive characteristic of stereotyping can quickly turn negative when it leads to pre-judgment as an end unto itself. Then it’s bad, bad, bad.

As image consultants, it’s part of our business to stereotype. We have to open boxes to demonstrate to our clients how they are possibly perceived by others. We work with boxes labeled with “tall,” “petite,” “old,” or “young” and have to show quite plainly how the world possibly thinks about you if you are part of this box. It’s not judgmental, though. Stereotyping simply says that there is a box labeled with “overweight” and that people may perceive you as a low-performer. The judgment says that every overweight person is a low performer.

Stereotyping means that I show pictures of the same woman, Amber Heard, once with dyed peroxide blond and once with natural brunette hair, and ask participants which of those women they believe is more intelligent. Responses are usually made with one voice. If you leave my seminar with the thought that every blonde must be dumb, it’s not a stereotype, it’s a judgment.

Stereotyping can be essential to learning and growing.
Accept that it’s not always wrong, in fact, it is a natural part of our life.