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Labels are for Cans, Not for People

CMP Resolution Blog by Lesley Allport and Katherine Graham.

Coca-Cola organised a social experiment in for their no-label campaign. While we are not supporting Coke’s products, we do feel this is a great message to share!

Coke introduced a new version of its iconic red-and-white can in Middle Eastern countries for this year’s Ramadan. The new red cans feature Coke’s signature dynamic ribbon but not the words “Coca-Cola” and are intended to promote open-mindedness and tolerance.

Prejudices can be formed in seconds!

Coke brought together six men to discuss their lives in a dark room. As the group talked, they shared opinions about what the others looked like, only to have those preconceptions shattered when the lights came on!

This is part of Coca-Cola’s larger “Let’s take an extra second” campaign.

Coke is one of many brands to bring diversity, equality and awareness of bias to the forefront of their corporations.

  • Starbucks faced a backlash when it asked baristas to discuss race relations with customers for its “Race Together” movement
  • Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” went viral in 2013 by addressing issues of female self-esteem. A forensics artist drew two portraits of a woman, one from the woman’s own description of herself and the other from someone else’s, to show that women look better than they perceive themselves to look.

Some critics debate whether these are genuine acts of social good or mere marketing ploys that associate a brand with feel-good campaigns. Also debatable is whether a limited-time campaign can have enough impact to change perceptions in the long term. Regardless, the wide-reaching influence of huge brands can bring new attention to these challenging matters.

Good judgement skills are crucial in handling difficult situations

Totally non judgemental

When mediating, having a difficult conversation or conducting an investigation, misreading a situation can be a disaster.   Act without prior consideration and it can destroy rapport. Misjudge someone and they may forgive you, but it will take a while before they trust you again.

When conflict arises, many managers are called in to make judgements about problems that are ill defined, involve a wide range of different perceptions and are fuelled by emotions.  If we use our judgement poorly, this worsens the situation.

Judgement is a dynamic process, not a static one

The two main ingredients to the judgement process are:

  • considering the information and then
  • applying experience and knowledge to the information.

We need to exercise a considerable degree of caution to make sure we receive information properly.  This is because we are great at looking at things through the lens of what we already know: our personal experience; stereotypes and prejudices we have; our principles and values.

This can lead to a mis-perception of facts, feelings and priorities,  as we respond from our own experience. We need to respond to the experience presented to us by others.

Tips to staying neutral

  • Recognise and put aside stereotypes. They are shorthand, and help us only to judge someone’s facade
  • Build our capacity for empathy. Accept there are different realities.
  • Resist the temptation to get drawn in, or pushed away emotionally.  Empathy is much more helpful for good judgment than sympathy or apathy.
  • Avoid using “instinct” or “gut feelings”. We tend to remember the times we got things right by “instinct” and forget all those hundreds of times when we got things wrong, or when following instinct would have been disastrous. Use instinct as an initial assessment rather than a final judgement.
  • Avoid making judgements under pressure. It’s fine to ask for more time to reflect.
  • Stay flexible. Having reached a judgement don’t refuse to change it or back down if new information comes to light.



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Katherine Graham

Katherine Graham has worked in the field of dispute resolution for over 15 years’ as a mediator and trainer. She has mediated on the BBC Learning Zone and has given keynote speeches on conflict management and mediation for The MOD’s Equal Opportunities Conference, Women in Business Annual conference and “Getting Beyond… MORE >

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