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Pifalls to Avoid in Customer Service
Personnelman 3 & 2 - Military manual for government personnel administration
Figure 1-11.—Stereotyping individuals is not consistent with the Navy’s expectations
reaction at the time, but if you are not aware of your own  feelings,  you  may  fail  to  provide  the  best  service to this person. You may not really like this person, but your  awareness  of  your  own  feelings  can  allow  you  to use this experience to improve your own face-to-face skills and to make sure your performance as a PN is not  adversely  affected  by  this  customer’s  negative attitude. You must also be aware of your feelings regarding a previous episode in which you had to deal with a difficult customer. You can be sure you will remember the customer who gave you a rough time on a previous visit. Do not let this memory affect your response when you are called upon again to serve this customer. Do not be surprised that you may feel like saying, “Sure I’ll help you. I’ll help you jump over the side.” But, do not say it! Showing your feelings may give you some temporary  gratification,  but  it  will  not  solve  your problems  with  this  customer  and  it  will  have  an adverse  effect  on  your  performance. Some  personal  reactions  you  may  experience  will not be that strong. In fact, they may be very mild and will  perhaps  be  caused  by  unconcern  or  lack  of interest. Unfortunately, these attitudes can be just as deadly  to  customer  satisfaction.  Everyone  possesses  a feeling  of  self-worth.  If  you,  the  PN,  should  deny  this by showing a lack of concern or interest, the customer may show the same attitude toward the Navy and its representatives  as  a  defense. STEREOTYPING Stereotyping   is   forming   a   standardized oversimplified  mental  picture  of  members  of  a  group. Stereotyping  involves  a  fixed  or  general  pattern  that  is attributed   to   the   members   of   a   particular group—disregarding    individual,    distinguishing qualities or characteristics. In stereotyping, we form mental  pictures  of  people,  things,  and  events  according to the classification or group in which we feel they belong. Consciously or unconsciously, we may have gone to a lot of effort to build up these stereotypes in our minds to make it easier to classify people. Some of these  stereotypes  may  carry  such  labels  as  race, nationality, sex, religion, length of hair, and many others. Stereotyping eliminates the need for us to know the person as an individual. How convenient it is to have  these  ready-made  niches  in  which  we  can  place the person and thereby “know all about them.” But what an injustice this is! This implies that the person is no different from anybody else in the same group or category. This in itself is bad enough, but it is even more  offensive  when  that  person  is  placed  in  a category that we regard as inferior, and we, in turn, reflect this opinion in our attitude toward the customer. Study figure 1-11. Notice how this figure points out the difference between a mental picture that is a valid  aid  to  communications  (second  picture)  and  one that  is  an  unwarranted  stereotype  (third  picture). Mental pictures are important because they are a quick way of conveying messages, but you must be sure they really  fit  the  individual  before  you  apply  them. Therefore, knowing that stereotyping individuals is not  consistent  with  the  Navy’s  expectations,  you should  not  stereotype  individuals. LANGUAGE BARRIERS Communication requires more One   person alone   cannot Communication involves a sender, than just talking. communicate. a receiver, and a message that is understood by both individuals. The sender must first be able to select the words or visual signals that accurately cover the desired meaning and then make sure the message is fully understood by the receiver. However, all responsibility does not rest on the sender; the receiver must listen to what is being said.  When  interference  (lack  of  understanding  or distractions)  garbles  the  message,  the  receiver  should ask the sender to repeat the message or provide an explanation. Misunderstanding information may be worse than receiving no information at all. Not understanding something can result in disappointment, frustration, a missed  opportunity,  or  an  improper  action  by  the receiver. As a PN, you must be especially aware of this pitfall. You will sometimes feel that you can almost see the earplugs in a customer’s ears. What you are saying is just not getting through. You may tend to shrug it off and think, “I did my part. It’s not my fault the customer wouldn’t listen.” Are you sure that you did your part? We do not think so. This customer came to you for information or advice and did not receive it. Any  one  of  several  causes,  such  as  the  following situations, could have interfered with your message: . The customer was vague about the particulars of  the  problem. l You used unfamiliar terms or slang. 1-16

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