The ability to communicate in various ways is usually taken for granted. However, the process of communications is crucial to human existence because it plays a significant role in the development of a person, existence of groups of people, and ability to relate with other individuals. Communication is as old as the human history and is one of the main factors that enhance civilization. The desire to communicate with strangers and the way we relate with them highly depends on the degree of effective communication. However, several factors are influencing the way people communicate, and one of the aspects is stereotypes. Communication and reaction to any information from a stranger are usually influenced by stereotypes of the behavior or appearance of the individual.
This is the cognitive understanding of another group or person that influences the feelings towards an individual or the group as a whole. Stereotyping usually leads to the formation of a perception of an individual even before he/she speaks. The way someone appears makes a person form an attitude towards him/her. In some cases, stereotyping may lead to communication or miscommunication breakdown depending on the assumption acquired (Zhang 25). I work in a campus computer lab. Recently, there has been a wave of insecurity in and around the college. Therefore, students have been advised to walk in a group of two or more to reduce the risk of being a victim of the crimes.
On a given day, I was in a hurry to close the lab and get home. As I was about to lock the door, I heard someone who caught my attention. The person got closer and explained that he wanted to use the lab to complete an assignment that was due the next day. Upon looking at the person, I could not recognize him; hence, I was prompted to ask for the student identity card, which he claimed that he had forgotten.
Given the wave of insecurity that was on the campus, the timing and the fact that the student did not have an identity card, I found it hard to trust him. I decided not to let him in as my working hours were over and the student looked suspicious. Given that he was a male student and considering the security situation in the campus, I could not allow him to use the lab at that moment. Despite looking young, I could not trust and allow him to the lab as most of the young people are now getting into crime compared to the elderly individuals who in the past have been stereotyped as criminals.
Worth noting is that the race of the individual did not matter. Despite the fact that most crimes are associated with Africa-American, I could not allow the student just because he was white. There are Arabs, Asian, and whites who are malicious and are associated with certain criminal activities. In addition, the Asians and Arabs are always stereotyped as enemies of the American people as they are associated with terrorism (Lemei 6). However, there are also whites who have been convicted of the same or have committed other serious crimes.
The person who was claiming to be a student was poorly dressed, and this made me develop a negative perception towards him. Campus students are usually well dressed, especially when they are attending classes. Although the well-dressed individuals are associated with crimes, they tend to dress smartly to disguise themselves as good people. Lastly, the student had tattoos and piercing on his body that made him have an apprehensive appearance. Although not all people who have tattoos and piercing are malicious, the security situation in the institution made me suspicious, and I had to turn away the person who was claiming to be a student. In most cases when we place people in certain categories, we tend to stereotype them by predicting their behaviors, which in some instances we judge them wrongly. Stereotyping is activated automatically when we categorize strangers (Zhang 26). In order to confirm our stereotypes, we tend to communicate with the strangers. However, our stereotypes do not always reflect the perceptions we form about people.
Stereotyping is a major factor, especially when communicating with strangers. The stereotypes make us develop certain perceptions about individuals who we have not interacted with before. In this case, a person claims to be a student who wants to use the lab but appears suspicious. Thus, due to the insecurity situation in the campus, I could not allow him to use the lab. In addition, given his appearance, I had already developed a perception about him. Nevertheless, we may judge people based on what we see, and this affects the kind of communication we are going to have with them. The stereotype is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy and makes us see behavior that confirms our expectations even if it is absent. To get rid of incorrect stereotypes, we should be aware of the problem of interpreting other people’s behavior based on our reference or perception. Finally, controlling our perceptions and anxiety may play a critical role while communicating with strangers.