We’ve all heard the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” yet too often we do the equivalent with people and make judgments based on one aspect of their life. The Human Library, a nonprofit based in Denmark, has combined the two concepts to create a Human Library in an effort to break down stereotypes and reduce prejudice. The goal of the project is to “un-judge someone.”

Volunteers apply to be “a human book” to represent a stigmatized group (eg: unemployed, ADHD, homeless, sexually abused, alcoholic, convert, Muslim, young mother, etc.) and then participants at a Human Library event can “check out” the book to have a 30-minute frank conversation with the person to see them beyond the label. The goal is to create a learning platform that defies stereotypes through difficult questions and understanding.

The Human Library has been fostering connections since 2000 and is now active in 80 countries. If an event is not held near you, perhaps you can adapt the idea and create something similar on your own. Having authentic conversations with any “other” goes a long way to helping to humanize them and create empathy around the differences, something we could all benefit from in these polarized times.

photo posted by Wieteke Koolhof


About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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