Labelling others puts you in a box

When you make judgments about people quickly those generalisations might be incorrect and they can also box you into an unhealthy way of thinking and building relationships with people.

Labelling is not an uncommon way of thinking and can be an easy trap to fall into.  The real damage occurs when you decide that someone is that type of person.  If you label someone as hopeless, or disrespectful or a bully, you then treat them accordingly.  This is not helpful for relationship building nor does it allow you to learn from them, because you have already decided the type of person they are.

I recall when I worked with someone who was ‘not that bright’. (I think I was a lot harsher in my words back then).  I put her in this box in the first few days of working with her. From then on I noticed that she never understood things when I explained them, she struggled to work to a brief and when we regrouped on client meetings our understanding was poles apart.  Or so I told myself.

I decided she was not clever and everything she did from there just affirmed my thinking.

We see what we look for.

Whether I was right or not, labelling her in the first few days was unfair and it damaged our relationship.  I subconsciously looked for things she did poorly to justify my labeling of her.  In the process, I missed out on learning from her and about myself. Perhaps I did not explain things clearly enough?  Perhaps the brief I gave her was vague? Perhaps her perspective of what the client was saying was useful?  But I wasn’t looking for this.

We see what we look for.

Those labels can be difficult to remove and they are dangerous if we are not prepared to consider they are incorrect.  We speak to people poorly when we label them, we make decisions that affect them based on our own thinking.  We may exclude them from emails, projects, thinking and conversations.  That’s not ok.

Becoming aware of your ‘labelling’ tendencies is a start.  Understanding why we do it is next.  If you want to learn more about the ‘Board of Directors’ that live in your head and how they affect relationships and decisions please download my white paper or attend one of our public programs.