Human beings fear the unknown and as a result we are quick to put labels on everything. Knowing what we’re dealing with puts our curious minds at ease and helps us move on to the next thing. We don’t have to sit with the frustration of trying to ‘figure it all out’. Putting people in boxes is the easiest thing to do; She’s impulsive, he’s aggressive, she’s ambitious, he’s reserved, they’re all losers, they’re all a bunch of snobs…it saves us time and energy to rush to a conclusion. When we place labels on people, what we’re really doing is being plain lazy. That’s right! We don’t want to do our homework, so we take the shortcut. Instead of giving the next person a chance to show us who they really are, we decide for ourselves, using our own lenses. If we don’t question our assumptions or open our minds up to the possibility that our first few impressions may be wrong, we deprive ourselves of the truth and the numerous possibilities that could follow. When we ‘box’ people, we naturally interact with them accordingly, hindering the possibility of an authentic relationship. You can’t be real with someone who doesn’t know who your REALLY are.
In order to change our approach, we should think about every human being as a storyteller. Everyone has a great story behind them which they deserve to share with the world. We will either like or dislike that story but we should refrain from judging the storyteller.There may be parts of that story which resonate with us and parts we cannot relate to, but it’s their story and it deserves recognition and respect. If we don’t know the FULL story, we don’t know the person, hence we cannot force a label on them. It’s the equivalent of not knowing what’s in the container but deciding it’s baked beans because you think so.
Haven’t you wondered about the times you found a person boring only to discover they were pretty interesting from other people? Or when someone accused you of being incompetent or difficult when you clearly were not? That’s ‘lazy-labelling’ at play. How about the times you were told off for being dismissive or selfish when all you were was busy? It wasn’t fun was it? So stop doing it to other people! We can all agree that we’re not mind-readers, we never know why people do the things they do unless they tell us.
Thus from now on, start getting curious. Ask, ask, ask… It’s better to ask twenty questions than to ruin twenty potentially great relationships. Assumptions kill the cat a million times more than curiosity ever will. The next time you’re about to put someone in a box, pause and ask them out for coffee instead. Be open to hearing their story and listen out for the similarities instead of the differences. This will allow for a world filled with openness and honesty, one in which we are more willing to show our true selves than to wear a mask to fit in. One where we all get along better.