Chapter 02: How Are Stereotypes Changed? – Excerpt 3

Chapter 02: How are Stereotypes Changed?

I’ve started writing a book about Changing the Face of Christianity. I’ll post excerpts here as I go in order to get your feedback before the book is published.

Stereotypes are changed one person at a time, through direct personal experience, when that experience is different than the stereotype you are familiar with.

When you meet someone within a particular group, you subconsciously compare them to the image you have. Everyone you meet either reinforces the stereotype or slowly works to change it.

When you meet someone within a particular group, you subconsciously compare them to the image you have. Everyone you meet either reinforces the stereotype or slowly works to change it.

For example, let’s revisit the car salesperson stereotype. Let’s assume you currently think all car salespeople are slimy, pushy, and dishonest.
And here you are in need of a used car for your son or daughter that just turned 16. Or maybe your budget is tight, and current car repair bills are starting to add up. So, you are in the market for a slightly used car in good condition.

So, you head to the used car lot, expecting the worst. You’ve got your guard up and you are dreading the fast-talking guy that is sure to swarm all over you. You are expecting them to do most of the talking while you mostly listen to them dribble on and on and pressure you about the sale that ends that day.

And instead of what you expect, you see a young, attractive women approach. She is warm and friendly. She is nothing but helpful and patiently listens while you explain your situation.

Or an older gentleman walks up, says hello, and asks how they can help you. You mention you are on a budget and just need a reliable car to get from A to B. Instead of immediately talking to you about the car they want to sell you, he keeps asking questions.

Do you want a small car or a bigger car? Is gas mileage important? How long do you plan to keep the car? Etc. After zeroing in on exactly what you need, they lead you to the one car that should meet your needs perfectly. It’s a “no haggle” lot and so the price is the price. They don’t go into the “we aren’t making any money on this car” type lines. They are straightforward and honest.

And as you are taking the test drive, they continue to ask about your experience with the car. Does it drive like you want? Is it roomy enough for you? Do you like the car? And then they hit you with something you don’t expect. The salesperson says that while they only have one such model on their lot, they’ve got a friend at the dealer down the street that has several more to choose from that you might want to take a look at before you buy.

You end up buying from them anyway, because you have acquired an incredible trust with them during your short visit. You leave the lot with your used car and you’ve had an incredibly positive experience.

Then, something even more bizarre happens. A week later, you get a personal note in the mail thanking you for the opportunity to help you find the perfect car.

A few weeks later, the salesperson calls and asks how you are enjoying the car. You mention a few flaws you hadn’t noticed during the test drive and walk-around, and they offer to get them fixed for free. You are completely blown away with the service and respect you have received from this unassuming man.

Now, what do you think about used car salespeople? Do you still believe they are all swindlers?  Or has your view changed slightly?

I believe I’m a very practical person; a realist. I know even from the above experience that you aren’t going to suddenly go tell the world how wonderful car salespeople are. You may not even be close to believing that yourself. But your view has changed; even if just a little.

The next time you encounter a used car salesperson, you won’t be quite as quick to judge. You will be a little more open to discovering if they fit the traditional mold or if they are somehow different like the person in your last car buying experience.

The next time you encounter a used car salesperson, you won’t be quite as quick to judge. You will be a little more open to discovering if they fit the traditional mold or if they are somehow different like the person in your last car buying experience.

And just imagine for a moment if you had the opportunity to run into more people within that group and your experience was again positive. Over time, you would have to start thinking that the awful image of a car salesperson must be an exception rather than the rule. Or said another way, you would likely start to think that a few bad apples have tarnished the image of the majority.
The bad ones get the press and satirist attention. The bad ones are the ones you hear about. But if your real life experience paints a different picture of them, then the stereotype is already in the process of being changed.

I’ll talk more about this in my next book excerpt. But in the meantime, ponder on how this stereotype changing process might apply to the current negative Christian stereotype.

 […this chapter will be continued in the next post…]   

Please share any comments or constructive feedback below. Thanks. It’s VERY APPRECIATED!

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About Brad White

R. Brad White is the Founder and President of Changing the Face of Christianity Inc. Brad is a former atheist and became an "on fire for God" Christian in 2005. In 2008, Brad became incredibly burdened by what he perceived as a Christian faith far off course, and Christians far from living the teachings of Jesus Christ. In 2010, Brad submitted to the calling to reverse these negative Christian stereotypes, by starting "Changing the Face of Christianity" (a 501c3 Texas non-profit corporation). Read more about R. Brad White

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  1. alan says

    Will admit upfront that I haven’t been reading all the excerpts you have been releasing so if the comment has been covered in previous posts, please excuse that lack of familiarity. It’s hard to change perceptions of groups. Find it to be human nature that if your behavior as an individual is contrary to the perception of the group as a whole, then the result is that either favorable or unfavorable one-on-one encounters affect mainly one’s perception of the individual, not the group or the organization. This seems to be true whether the group is viewed positively or negatively. Think of any group that is viewed strongly, i.e. Muslims, the NRA, Greenpeace. . . whatever group you feel strongly about. What would it take to change your perception about that group? And what could one member do to effect that change? When it is Christianity in view, there is another element at work that makes the process both more difficult as well as easier. There’s spiritual conflict involved and the often intense efforts of an active evil spiritual being to both blind the eyes of the heart to what is true and good, as well as produce the sometimes intense hatred towards followers of Jesus in this world. There are many stories from the underground church where the first response of a persecutor to an act of love or kindness isn’t gratefulness, but rather hate. . . an increased anger in answer to an act of love. This spiritual element of evil makes the transforming of negative stereotypes all the more difficult. It also makes it easier in that this issue is a spiritual issue. . . it is a matter of light to the eyes of the heart and life in the spirit of men, and these are things that have the power to transform instantly. The power that accomplishes these things is greater than that of human hearts or of the evil that influences them. Persistent and consistent testimony of being alive in Christ is the only way forward for God’s people. It may not change everyone’s perception. . . it may even lead often to greater troubles, as the bible says, “He who seeks to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” But faithfulness to a true testimony in Christ will be used of the Spirit to others, the fruit of which is changed lives of the people we encounter and love. What hope is there of any transformation apart from God’s people in this world being genuine?

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