Labels stick.

This is why we get defensive when we are assigned one we do not like, as well as why we should be careful when assigning one to others.

It happens a lot when we deliver feedback. Things like “it does not seem you are committed enough” (label = “indifferent”), or “you could do so much more if only..” (label = “underperformer”), or “you are very aggressive in meetings”, trigger defensiveness in others. And they tend to be profoundly ineffective. After all, would you be motivated in changing your behaviour if somebody would tell you that, or would you rather assume a defensive stance?

And unfortunately it is a tendency permeating much of the public discussion nowadays, both online and offline. More and more, we see people attacking each others on a personal level, labelling each others for life, defining each others’ set of values, beliefs, needs and motives based on a single action or word. In most circumstances, this is gratuitous.

It’s worth remembering that when we interact with somebody, all we see is what they do, all we hear is what they say and, in the case of the internet, all we know is what they write. We have no way to know their intentions. If we want to create some type of change, it might be more effective to approach the issue from our perspective, and elaborate on what we actually feel. This is the only other thing that we know.

When I hear that, I feel like my heritage and history is not being respected.
If I come across that type of comments, I feel sadness as we might never find a common way.
When I see a behaviour that does not respect others’ boundaries, I feel as if mine have been violated as well.

P.S.: today’s thought was sparked by this post of Ed Batista on feedback, and by the work of David Bradford and Mary Ann Huckabay on the metaphor of “the net”.



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