Generalizations help us make sense of an otherwise complex world.
Dealing with different people and recalibrating how to communicate with them, work with them, talk to them, can be exhausting. It’s just far simpler to make a bucket in your head and dunk people according to religion, place of origin, sex etc.
It’s just easier to make sense of the madness by staying organized in our heads and fitting people into little boxes that we comprehend. Like the 25yr old go-getter man from tier II cities who aspires to be cool and own the latest in mobile gadetry, or the 17 yr old girl from Allahabad who has worldly aspirations and her air-hostessing is going to get her all she wants. We’ve all made these boxes in our heads.
And so we generalize. More for our sanity and inability to comprehend large amounts of seemingly incoherent data that we receive daily from the people we encounter.
But why does it piss people off?
Contrary to what people say, I don’t believe generalizations piss people off because they’re not true for them. In fact we feed off of the generalizations that agree with what we believe is our identity.
It’s not generalizations that we hate. We use them to our advantage. We wear them as a badge of honour when they coincide with who we think we are. We fuel these generalizations when it suits us. The DLSR around your neck makes you part of the creative lot. We like that.
In that sense it becomes an issue of identity. So while I’d like to be known as an MBA because I would want to associate with some of the generalizations made about them (successful, achievers etc) I’d not want to be associated with the generalizations about MBAs that don’t suit me.
So we take what we like and get upset at what we don’t. It’s only natural.
But, I believe that the real reason people take offence to generalizations is because it shows an utter unwillingness on the part of the generalizer to try and get to know the generalizee.
We get pissed off when we find that people aren’t bothering with getting to know us and instead are happy to place us in a ready-made box.
Placing someone in a box, even if ever-so-gently, is a way of telling them that you already know whatever’s worth knowing about them.
We get pissed off because not bothering to get to know us is the only way someone can make us feel insignificant. And we’d all like some validation.
And yes, this is a generalization.