This month we are talking about labels and their impact on our mental health, identity and self talk. I wanted to discuss this topic because more and more often, I see people being reduced to words.
She’s such a…
I love political satire. Any late night show is a regular on my YouTube feed. There is something wonderful about using humor to point out the errors in logic behind poor political positions and unfair legislation. And while I love this aspect, one thing I dislike is all the labeling.
In the current political climate it’s become so easy to call someone crazy or stupid or a crook. Except this isn’t how we change minds. It’s how we become more divisive and isolated.
In philosophy we call this an Ad Hominem attack. It is a logical fallacy in which we attack a person rather than their argument. We do this all the time; to others and to ourselves. In both instances, it is illogical and destructive.
We are going after the wrong thing
This is important: a person is not the same as their position.
We may hate someone’s stance or opinion or how they conduct themselves. But we should always point out the errors of the position or the behaviour and never resort to name calling.
Throwing labels doesn’t help
It doesn’t change minds. Calling someone stupid doesn’t change their position on climate change or make them stop skipping class. It just pushes them farther away and makes them less likely to engage with you in the future. Further, labelling someone makes it easier for us to right them off or to refuse to listen to their position. Once we have labelled someone we are prone to stick to that label even if there is evidence to the contrary.
It doesn’t achieve results. We can use all the nasty labels in the world, but it won’t accomplish anything. We all fall prey to thinking criticism is the same as doing something. In reality, if we don’t like what we see, we need to figure out how to do the hard work of changing it. Putting a label on someone is easy. Actually pushing back and standing up for what you believe is hard. It takes action.
It reflects poorly on you. Name calling leaves us all looking like children. No one is in the right. Consider how labelling others makes you look. Do you respect people who name call and speak poorly of others? Do you trust people who are quick to put negative words on people they don’t like? Rather, when we take the time to be careful and thoughtful with our words- this is when we can truly garner respect. When our words are backed by fairness and evidence; this is when our words offer true power.
Labels are universal. One thing I have learned again and again through coaching is that what we apply to others, we apply to ourselves. Thus, if we call someone else stupid or lazy, chances are we easily turn that language on ourselves.
Judgment is painful. Labels are about judgment. Many of us are guilty of being incredibly judgmental. I encourage you to notice when you are making judgments. You will be shocked at how mean and negative they tend to be. ‘He’s so fat’, ‘She’s such a bad dresser’,’He’s so annoying’ etc. It is painful to see the world through such a lens. Again, judgments we use against others we will apply to ourselves.
Labelling people will never serve us. It doesn’t promote what we want. It doesn’t create positive change. Moreover, very often we turn those same labels against ourselves.
Seek the weakness in arguments and the humanity in people. Call out bad behaviours, but have compassion for the actors. It is a classic lesson for parents, and one we should apply as adults.