What's the difference between heaven and hell?

Well, heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and it's all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is where the chefs are British, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, the police are German and it's all organized by the Italians.

Did you laugh? 

I did. I'm an American and I live in Europe and this joke always makes me chuckle. It's all about stereotypes though. Most people don't find this joke offensive. At least, most people I've met, regardless of where they come from. Although some have wanted to swap out a few of the countries.

Are all Swiss people organized? Are all Italians unorganized? Absolutely not. Is there great British cuisine and lousy French cuisine? Also yes. But overall, people relate to this and think it's funny.

Two different friends sent me this video yesterday. It's all about Millennial stereotypes--and Gen X (maybe really young baby boomer, but I'll say he's an older Gen X) stereotypes. I found it hilarious.

A Millennial job interview from @TheDanielBrea on Vimeo.

Not everyone did. Some people thought it was stereotyping at its worst. I, however, thought it was stereotyping at its best.

Yes, it's negative. But, it's funny. We can look at the humor and still know that not all Millennials are like this. In fact, we can probably agree that there are very few, if any, Millennials that are as bad as the job-seeking Amy. It's the exaggeration that makes it relatable and funny.

Stereotyping the young is not new. Here's another video stereotyping young people.

The difference? The "kids" who are "disobedient, disrespectful oafs, noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy, loafers" are Baby Boomers. It was funny then, and it's funny now, even if it's a stereotype. Guaranteed, 20 years from now, all the Millennials will be complaining about the lazy entitled youngsters.

Instead of getting offended when someone makes a joke, stop and see if you can find humor in it. Laugh at yourself a bit, and you'll find out that life is much more fun.

Times When Stereotyping is Never Appropriate

When you are making decisions about individuals, you never, ever use stereotypes to do that. You don't remove the Italian woman from the list of administrative assistant candidates because of a stereotype any more than you would add a Swiss person because of stereotype. You judge each individual separately.

You don't make hiring, firing, or promotion decisions based on a stereotype. "Jane just had a baby, so she won't want to travel." That's a stereotype. Don't do it. "Hai is Chinese so she'll be able to solve that math problem."  That's called a positive stereotype and it can also be harmful. 

We should always seek to be kind. That means not making jokes at someone else's expense, but it also means that if someone else makes a joke that you find unfunny, you give them the benefit of the doubt. Speak up if you can't find any humor in it, but try to learn to laugh at yourself as much as possible.

You Use Stereotypes Too

We sometimes call these stereotypes "statistics." When you target a particular group for your business, you're simply guessing based on the numbers. Stereotypes work precisely because they are based on people's real-life experiences. Of course, stereotypes can outlive the truth, as cultures change. But, don't assume that you only judge every person based on their unique individual characteristics. You make stereotypical judgments every time you pick a line at the grocery store. The lady with the wad of coupons in her hand will take forever, the young people trying to buy alcohol are probably underage, and so that will take time. The person buying a gallon of milk and a candy bar will be fast, so you'll get behind that person.

Most of the time, that would be the fastest choice, but it can turn out that your "fast" person, also needs something complex done, and the young people are actually 25 so they get carded and out of there quickly. You're not 100 percent sure, but you made decisions based on your life experiences.

We should make every effort to be kind all the time, but we should also find the humor in life, even if it portrays our group in a negative light from time to time. 

Published on: Nov 27, 2017