Skip to Navigation

Labelling anything is only ever of limited value. Labelling a product, diagnosing an ailment, naming types of weather are all essential to effective communication and understanding of course, but as labels tend to stick they can quickly become confused with the character of the thing being labelled. They can also prevent enquiry (once we know what something is, why look any further?).

Labels are judgements, and we tend not to examine our judgements. As Hayakawa says, one of the consequences of hasty judgements in everyday thought “is the temporary blindness they induce” (1990 p. 27). For example, when we have to work with someone whose behaviour challenges us or thwarts our efforts it is only natural that we start to think of them as a ‘Difficult Person’. Equally, labelling an activity in the same way can lead us to start of on the back foot when approaching a similar activity in the future.

Acknowledging something as difficult when we’ve struggled with it is natural and OK, and it can be advantageous because it helps build self-esteem. Generalising the difficulty to all events or, in the case of a person, attributing it to their character, is not. It can prevent us from taking a fresh perspective and, because our behaviour tends to align itself with our beliefs, influence how we approach the person or thing we have so-labelled.

In itself this is not a problem; we have simply categorised them based on our experience. But it becomes a problem when, instead of seeing John or Mary as someone whose difficult behaviour we find hard to deal with, we look no further than the label we have given them and act on our judgement instead.

Where people are concerned, labelling someone else disempowers us because it limits our view and so restricts the range possibilities we allow ourselves.

See also:

>Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action

Winbolt, Difficult People; A Guide to Handling Difficult Behaviour
 

2 Responses to “When We Label It Difficult”

  1. Awesome comments – and now I have to spend some time re-thinking the labels I have used and how they encourage me to NOT live my life to the fullest. Thank you.

     
  2. ‘Rethinking our own labels’, now there’s thought, thank you. (I feel a post coming on). How about creating a personal label-free day for starters? Scary!

     

What do you think? Share your thoughts...

Latest from the blog

Bullying at work

bullying at work

Bullying in any setting is wrong and harmful, but unfortunately it is also a fact of life. If you think you are being bullied the information on these pages will help you. Any kind of bullying or harassment harms individuals and their employers, and all staff should be treated with dignity and respect at work. The […]

Continue reading

Why It’s Better to Believe What Makes You Comfortable Than What Is True

Comfort zone

Metaphorically, you might say, some people will stop to look in a mirror to see what they could learn, while others will hurry past it, in case they learn something.

Continue reading
FREE DOWNLOAD - Get it now.

How to be more Resilient

Get my super-helpful guide '9 Steps to Resilience' absolutely FREE, when you subscribe to my newsletter.

Understand the steps to resilience and you can develop the ability to cope with problems and setbacks with less stress and more confidence.
close-link
%d bloggers like this: