Stereotypes are ways to define individuals and groups of people by common characteristics. They are typically cultural and even though they contain some truth to their base, are usually exaggerated and over simplified to keep us from seeing each other as we really are. Stereotypes have been handed down from one generation to another and a lot of times are negative carryovers from some other time in history. This way of generalizing based on limited knowledge can be dangerous and hurtful but as individuals we can seek to find more positive ways of knowing about people and not assuming the worst is true of each other.
Stereotyping doesn't substitute for actual facts about people. How many times have others said things about you that weren't true? Are you making some of those same assumptions about someone because you don't actually know who they are or understand where they are coming from? Think back to a time when you were guilty of making a stereotype judgment of someone. How true were your assumptions after you got to know that person? Chances are your assumptions were inaccurate and by giving that individual a chance to show you who they truly are and what talents and personality they bring to the table, you are grateful that you have them in your life.
Determine what causes you to apply the stereotypes you use to judge people you meet. Attempt to rid your mind of prejudices and biases that may be based on inaccurate information or information that you learned from your past, not from this individual. Logical thinking and applying actual facts in place of assumption let's people prove themselves to you rather than taking on an automatic stereotype. By allowing this positive flow of communication and energy others will open up to you and let you see who they really are.
Although there is no set way to stop stereotyping, there are some ways to change how you perceive others who are different than you: Listen. Take a cue from the person you are talking to and match his speaking attitude. Different cultures speak in different patterns and with differing excitement in their voice. You may not have known that this loud obnoxious person was really just raised in a boisterous family clan where the tone of voice reflected on how much attention they received from the adults in the family.
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. If you don't understand the person you're talking to, it's better to reserve negative comments and just focus on being in the moment. You'll have time to sort through all the information you received from this discussion later and maybe after stepping back for a few you'll have a clearer picture of this person and it may not be as bad as you first assumed.
There is 100% chance of having something in common with this person. We focus so much of our time in noticing what's "off" or different in another person that many times we don't even see how closely related we all are.
Put some effort into getting to know more about the stereotype and where it comes from. Read about cultures, countries and events that may have bearing on how a person acts or reacts to certain things. This may help you gain understanding and a better connection with someone new.
There is a difference between "weird" and "different". It may not have seemed like a big deal to call something weird, but even this subtle judgment on someone's personality and actions can have an effect on those we are around. What is "normal" anyway? What may be familiar to you in Colorado may be a foreign experience for someone who lived on the east coast or grew up in another country.