Faith / Opinions & Happenings / Uncategorized

Why I’m NOT offended by stereotyping (Statistics Nerd Post)

I’m going through the excruciating process of buying my first home. The paperwork is mountainous; the costs are draining.

I started looking for a house in September 2015 and have, since then, interacted with a multitude of people that have some say in my buying a house: realtors, sales agents, my company’s relocation company, movers, more realtors, lending agents, homeowners insurance people, banks, lawyers, underwriters, more agents…

When they meet me, it is typical for one of three things to cross their lips:

  1. Oh… where’s your husband? He has to come check it out too, right?
  2. Oh… so your parents are buying a house for you? How nice!
  3. Oh… are you a realtor shopping for a client?

As you’ve probably guessed, none of these circumstances apply to me (or why would I be writing about them). Although it’d be nice if my parents were buying me a house or if I had a husband to share this journey with, I am, in fact, just a young single female buying a house alone and with my own money (and some of the banks).

For a time I was considering a new build and was, therefore, looking at model homes. There’s a lot of people who look around at model homes with no intention of buying (if you’ve never been in one, go! They are fabulous).

Naturally, the sales agents at these homes try to weed out the “serious buyers” so they can focus their energy on selling to them. I was never chosen although I was a serious buyer. Many a time, I listened and waited with my questions while the agent pressed another person (who seemed more likely to be serious about buying)  to gauge their interest.

I usually took my mom with me on these visits but one time I was really interested in an ‘inventory home’ (a brand new house that a builder built with no buyer yet). My mom couldn’t make it so I flew solo. A couple arrived at the office at the same time as me. Despite that I’d scheduled an appointment, the agent took the couple on a tour of a smaller house and assigned one of the landscapers (who barely spoke English) to unlock the house I was interested in.

Despite all of the stereotyping I experienced as a house buyer, I’ve never once felt offended by it. If you’re following mainstream media (or really even checking your Facebook/Twitter newsfeeds), you’ll know that sensitivity and political correctness are currently the name of the game. You’d probably agree with me that I could write about these experiences on a public platform and others would lament with me and condemn those stereotyping jerks who slighted me!

“What? So only married people can buy houses? Only spoiled rich kids whose parents foot the bill can own houses?”

BUT, if you understand statistics (which we all do to some extent whether we know it or not) then you, like me, may also be hesitant to jump on the sensitivity bandwagon.

We all take mental shortcuts everyday. It is the beautiful miracle of our brains that allows us to not spend incredible amounts of time thinking about how to move our feet to step forward or to recognize a sign of danger. You took a mental shortcut when you clicked on my article. You knew by the title or because you follow this blog that it might be something you’re interested in.

The reason you take those mental shortcuts is because our brains recognize most likely scenarios because brains pick up a pattern of most often repeated outcome in similar circumstances. In short, we are programmed to get used to things.

It is the same with those sales agents. They recognized patterns. In their experience (personal or relayed to them in training), they know that, most often, the people who end up buying homes have certain characteristics (are a married couple, have a rich mom and dad, etc.) Because those are the most often repeated, they’ve come to expect it. I do not fit the characteristics of “most likely to buy a house” because people like me rarely do.

You know those happy pictures of people after they’ve just purchased homes? Realtors often use them as ads. I searched and searched and searched but I couldn’t find a picture of someone alone with the ‘SOLD’ sign all happy from just having bought a house. I will take one on the day I close on my house.

And that is why they are surprised to find out that I am, in fact, a serious buyer. It’s why they ignore me in favor of others who, in their eyes, are more likely to buy.

This doesn’t offend me. I do not feel stereotyped. I’m not offended or thinking ‘What? You think girls can’t buy houses by themselves?’ .

On the contrary, I am amazed by their brains capacity to (possibly without their even knowing) recognize and act on patterns. I am also reminded that I am unique and that God has made me into someone who can and will follow a road less traveled.

This carries over into other parts of our lives where we feel like we should be offended by stereotypes. We are appalled when our entire millennial generation is deemed ‘entitled’. We can’t stand when Christians are labeled ‘close-minded’.

Let us stop to consider that the reason these stereotypes exist is because the people who perpetuate them are utilizing mental shortcuts, a miracle included in God’s design of the human brain. These people have seen (whether they know it or not) a pattern in their past experience and are utilizing it to create mental efficiency.

We all need to continue to use our brains capacity for mental shortcuts. Without them, we’d spend all our time thinking through things repeatedly and in more thorough detail than is actually needed. And this is why I humbly believe that understanding instead of taking offense should, in fact, be the name of the game.



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