‘Unintentional Intolerance’

Cheryl Bressington
Human Resources director, 308.865.8388
Unintentional Intolerance” 
 (diversity presentation)
Presented by Dr. Steve Robbins (www.slrobbins.com/)
Tuesday, April 22,

2 p.m. or 5 p.m. (both sessions are 90 minutes)
Ponderosa Room, Nebraskan Student Union
FREE and Open to Faculty, Staff, Students and the Community (no registration required)


 A Brief Description of Dr. Steve Robbins:

“Steve is able to present potentially threatening information in a non-threatening manner.”

This quote captures the insightful and powerfully effective approach found in Dr. Steve Robbins’ work around issues of diversity, inclusion and cultural competence. Working with numerous individuals and organizations across the country, he inspires and motivates listeners to be more mindful about inclusion and valuing others for their unique gifts, skills and experiences.

His powerful concept of “Unintentional Intolerance” has helped people to better understand complex cultural competency issues in a safe and non-threatening manner. An expert communicator, Dr. Robbins engages his audiences with a dynamic blend of humor, stories and in-depth knowledge. Those who have heard Dr. Robbins leave with greater curiosity, motivation and intentionality about creating inclusive environments.


A Brief Description on the Unintentional Intolerance Presentation 

The vast majority of people have a sincere and honest disgust towards prejudices that are based on superficial factors. Indeed, most people agree that racism, sexism, and other “isms” are “bad” things that we, as a society, should attempt to eliminate. Moreover, most people believe that they rarely, if ever, take prejudicial actions based on these superficial factors (e.g., skin color or a person’s gender). In short, people believe, and like to believe that they are tolerant and inclusive of others—others who may look, act or think differently than they do. The bottom line is that most people perceive themselves as “NICE” people!

 But what if “NICE” people are, on regular occasions, intolerant of and exclude others solely on the basis of non-substantive factors, and they didn’t know it? What if the reality that most people perceive themselves to live in is not as accepting as they think? What if many people make decisions about and attributions of others based on false, half-true, or incomplete information? Could this lead to the very things that most people abhor—things like racism, sexism, ageism, etc.? The answer is a resounding yes! Unintentional intolerance is as real as the consequences it heaps on those at the receiving end of such intolerance.


Unintentional Intolerance: What NICE People Need to Know 

Unintentional Intolerance refers to the manner in which nice, well-meaning people (and organizations) go about potentially excluding others, even when they want to include them. Research and experience tell us that we all have biases that we are often unaware of, or think little about. And these biases influence our decision-making, behaviors and attributions of others on a daily basis. Could we be making “bad” decisions and engaging in exclusive behavior without knowing? The answer is, “Yes.” Dr. Robbins explores the “how’s” and “why’s” surrounding unintentional intolerance in this interactive, humorous and eye-opening presentation, and also gives the antidote for such behavior.

To reframe “diversity and inclusion” for the 21st century by providing listeners a framework for understanding how exclusion and intolerance take place with respect to both people and ideas, even with individuals and in organizations that are committed to diversity and inclusion. The session will look at how close-mindedness takes place and suggests measures people can take to be more open-minded and to “entertain” new ideas—a much needed attribute in world increasingly driven by creativity and innovation.


1.        Culture:  Lenses and Filters for Interpreting the World
2.        The brain and stereotyping:  We all have prejudice and bias
3.        Cognitive Dissonance and how we respond to inconsistencies
4.        Mindlessness:  An efficient yet sometimes troubling cognitive process
5.        Multiple Redundant Messages and the concept of branding/stereotyping
6.        The workings of the human brain:  Change takes practice
7.        Mindfulness + Knowledge: The antidote for Unintentional Intolerance
8.        Diversity and Inclusion are the responsibility of all
9.        The Big Context:  Creativity, Connections and Caring About Others