The Scourge of Labels


20 Jan
20Jan

About three months into my job in the call center, I was summoned for my first Quality Assurance audit review, and then offered feedback on a randomly selected call.  My performance in the various areas of service skills was tagged as falling within these three levels:

  • Novice
  • Emerging 
  • Expert

While I took great pride in exceeding the expectations on this initial audit, I must confess to having grappled with having my traits assigned to a particular label.  I have never fallen neatly into categories, and vastly prefer the written comments to any type of scoring when it comes to evaluations and assessments.  While I could accept not being “expert” at such an early stage of my employment in a new field, the labels felt like limitations on my identity. 

I am astounded by the labels so many use to define others … tags such as “He is such a sport,” “You’re a closet liberal,” “That’s ridiculous,” “She is a true saint” are pinned to individuals who impress, intimidate, astound, and inspire our world.  And yet, when making those associations, who are we actually defining? And how are we limiting them and ourselves in the process? 

Whitney Morgan got it right when she wrote that labeling helps us to make sense of our world, to figure out whether they can trust others and how to deal with them.  While this is an understandable trait of human nature, the fact is that labels are static, while people are constantly evolving; our identification with labels is tantamount to defaulting our lives to the fixed parameters of the label (Morgan, 2017). 

How easy it is to sort others and ourselves into neat categories!  A more healthy approach involves “writing in” the way we define people. Moreover, such a method is conducive to everyone’s individual resilience; sliding away from the reflex of sticking labels onto others - especially those with whom we have difficulty - builds character and fortitude.  

Answer the temptation with challenging yourself to work on taking the time to understand everyone in your universe - a challenge, no doubt, but also a pathway toward inner strength.

 

Works Cited:

Morgan, W.V. “How Labeling People Helps us Feel Safe, but Then Silently Destroys Us” (Medium.com, 2017)

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