Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Labeling Others

It is easy to categorize people, so we do it often.  Putting people into a box makes it more convenient, especially if it is a negative box that will allow us to feel superior.   

Yet we should not make snap decisions that pre-judges others via a short observation.  People are complex.  While it is simpler to jump to conclusions about another person, it is short sighted.  We cannot know the heart and soul of someone we view from across the room (even with the added power of our rolled eyes and shared whispers of disapproval).  

With the majority of people we encounter it is nearly impossible to make conclusive judgments as we do not see all of their intentions and actions.  The whole person is never displayed through what we see if we do not know them well.  A glimpse of how someone behaves is hardly enough.  It takes time to really understand someone.

"Oh, she is a ____________"....  Or "he is always a____________" can shut people out.  Decisive language that diminishes others will give us a moment of feeling superior, but it also shows more of our own character when we are the one doing the labeling (than it does about the person being labeled).

Additionally, our observations are often wrong.  We cannot always know the back-story.  There are many occasions where over time I have come to discover my early opinions of people were misguided.  By using conclusive language and labeling we can hurt our chances to see the amazing contributions that others bring.  When we dismiss people as "wrong", we can never learn from their brilliance (and yes, I think most of us have brilliance to share).

I often see those who belittle others to make a point.  This is common, even though many do no cite those they attack by name.  This frightens me, as I am sure I do this from time to time.  (Heck, I might be doing it right now??  As I said, being human is complex... and trying to improve means some hard self exploration!).

The more you surround yourself with people who are different from you, the more you grow as a person.  Some of the people who have the biggest influence on me come from different backgrounds, political beliefs, religions, sexual orientations, etc.... I enjoy being around those who do not fit a "mold".  My friend Patrick says that if he only hung out with people like himself he would constantly be surrounded by "6'4" Rednecks" (classic!).

My business has grown as I have allowed myself to create friendships with other speakers who have a variety of different success models.  Not every way of cultivating a practice in the business is right for me, but when I see others achieving their goals it is inspiring.  Being dismissive only hurts me.  As a member of the National Speakers Association I have had the pleasure to learn from dozens of peers that have carved their own paths.

The next time you are at a networking event look for people who do not meet the profile of those with whom you normally congregate.  Instead of judging, get to know your new acquaintances by taking an interest in them as a person.  Leave your eye rolling for your next optometrist appointment.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer  


Thom Singer said...

To those who asked, yes... this post was inspired by Mikki and Randy's acceptance speeches into the Speaker Hall of Fame. Both of them had a lasting impact on my thoughts with their stories.

Marc said...

I agree with your observations. You might have seen the TED TALKS session with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discussing "The danger of a single story." Insightful, interesting and very entertaining.