The Person You Mean to Be Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Person You Mean to Be teaches you how to navigate cognitive biases that may prevent you from forming meaningful relationships and experiencing the world as it is by leading you to wrongful assumptions or limitations about your environment or by anchoring you in your preexisting beliefs.

Read in: 4 minutes

Favorite quote from the author:

the person you mean to be summary

Although you may not realize it, you too often fall prey to cognitive biases when you interact with those around you. Don’t worry – it doesn’t sound as bad as it is, and you’re not the only one.

A cognitive bias is a mental shortcut that our brains use in order to make decisions quickly. Our brains are able to take in our surroundings and quickly come up with answers to navigate situations. 

These mental shortcuts are useful because they allow us to make quick decisions without having to invest a lot of time and energy into thinking about every little detail of each situation. 

However, sometimes these shortcuts can lead us astray, preventing us from seeing things as they are. To break out of the negative cognitive biases, The Person You Mean to Be by Dolly Chugh will explore the most effective practices scientists discovered so far. 

Here are three of my favorite lessons from the book:

  1. Biases are often unconscious, and it takes a certain mindset for us to overcome them.
  2. One way to do away with biases is to publicly fight them.
  3. Acting like you don’t see the differences between races to overcome racism won’t work.

As we’ll deepen our knowledge about biases with each lesson, there will be plenty of interesting facts that you’ll come across. Keep on reading and let’s start with the first lesson!

If you want to save this summary for later, download the free PDF and read it whenever you want.

Download PDF

Lesson 1: To overcome biases, we must first accept that we have them and keep an open mindset

You probably know about confirmation bias—the tendency to search for and accept information that confirms your existing beliefs and rejects information that challenges them. But did you know that there are a whole host of other cognitive biases that we all fall for? 

In fact, Harvard conducted a study about this phenomenon and even created an online test (the IAT test) to demonstrate how we all have unconscious biases that affect how we think. Even for the most progressive people, this test was a revelation.

On average, it seems that the majority of respondents associate black people with dangerous weapons, women with childcare, and men with careers and work. It may sound bitter, but it’s all there. So, how do we get rid of these biases?

One way is to keep an open mindset or a growth mindset. Such a mentality is in contradiction to a fixed mindset, as it implies that a person is open to new perspectives, they willingly try new things and get out of their comfort zone.

For example, a fixed mindset person might say something like “I was never good at singing”, while a growth mindset person would just try it out regardless. It’s the same with biases – we must accept that we have them and work from there. It takes proactive participation and an inner will to work on it.

Lesson 2: If you want to work on eliminating biases, you can start from within and expand your reach publicly

Cognitive biases are something that we all experience in our daily lives. For example, when you meet someone new, you probably try to guess what kind of person they are based on their appearance and behavior.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing—it’s just human nature! But there are times when your assumptions about other people may be off-base. Take the example of Kimberly Davis (an American executive) who walked into a room full of people that shared her position at an event.

Everyone there was white, so as she walked in, she immediately felt excluded, as no one came to chat with her. That doesn’t mean they were racist, but rather that they didn’t recognize her as one of their own based on their assumptions that a black woman could never be in an upper management position.

To overcome such assumptions, educate first yourself and then those around you. The book suggests that this works even better when you step up for someone different from you.

Society normally expects people that are alike to stand up for each other. Which is why it’s more impactful if you step in for someone from a different social category. Who would expect that? No one – which is why it matters that much more.

Lesson 3: Pretending to not see the differences between races in order to avoid looking racist can make things worse

If we pretend that race doesn’t matter, we risk missing out on opportunities for growth and connection with each other. By contrast, recognizing and accepting the reality of race does not mean agreeing with the idea that one group has more power than another or treating members of different races differently. 

It simply means acknowledging that everyone has a racial identity—that is, something about them (their appearance or ancestry) has led others to identify them as belonging to one group rather than another—and that having this identity can affect their life experience in some ways. 

It is easy enough to tell yourself you’re not racist or sexist. Especially if you don’t see the world through a lens of race and gender. But if you refuse to see those lenses at all, then you are refusing to acknowledge a fact of life. 

It’s not enough for us to simply say we want equality between races and genders without actually doing anything about it. We need to acknowledge that there are systemic issues within our society that make certain groups more vulnerable than others. Only then can we begin working towards solutions that will benefit everyone involved (and ideally prevent further harm from occurring).

The Person You Mean to Be Review

The Person You Mean to Be will teach you all about unconscious biases, how to deal with them, and how to overcome the premade assumptions that you grow up with.

The book will show you how to overcome systemic racism by helping you acknowledge the identity certain races have a right to claim. It will also show you how biases are affecting your everyday life. From your social to your professional relationships and more. 

Reading this book will shed light on views that will change your life for the better. This book will teach you how to overcome limitations using just your mind.

Who would I recommend The Person You Mean to Be summary to?

The 35-year-old person dealing with exclusion at their workplace. The 28-year-old person who’s heard about cognitive biases and wants to learn more about ways to overcome them. Or the 40-year-old person who feels stuck in a rut and wants to change the way they think.

Last Updated on November 16, 2022

Rate this book!
This book has an average rating of 5 based on 1 votes.

Maria Deac

While working with my friend Ovi's company SocialBee, I had the good fortune of Maria writing over 200 summaries for us over the course of 18 months. Maria is a professional SEO copywriter, content writer, and social media marketing specialist. When she's not writing or learning more about marketing, she loves to dance and travel all over the world.