Self-Confirming Labels We treat people to match our labels BY: Troy Murphy |January 2018
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He’s an idiot; so, I will treat him as one. She is lovely, I will treat her with admiring attention. When we label, we treat the labeled person in that context. Our actions confirm the judgment, supporting biased condemnation. We also may correctly label, helping with decisions of safety and love. Our behavior and their reactions to the praising or condescending tones create the dynamics of a relationship that likely will confirm our confining assessments—the destructive dismantling or building of character.
We never objectively observe; unknown biases invade and poison. With premature and inaccurate lables, we become part of a dysfunctional cycle. Our judgments self-confirm whether conducting a scientific experiment at the lab or evaluating the meaning behind a conversation with a partner during dinner. We misjudge; the more categorical the thinking (good or bad), the greater the bias. People come in a million shades of grey.
We must step back, open our minds to soften critical labels, looking for characteristics not neatly fitting the attached label; you may discover error in your thoughts.
Categorical thinking destroys relationships, simplifying the complex mixture of good and bad, vexing communications with weighty and unjust conclusions. The partner we once saw as wonderful, at a flip of a switch, we now label as awful. Their simple displays of humanity now spark extreme emotions, confirming the unjustness of the relationship. Through the smoke and mirrors of the mind, we become innocent victims of their chicanery. Now labeled, the partner can do no right. We treat them differently because we see them differently. And naturally, they begin to act differently. The relationship changes dramatically, exposing the worst.
Seeing the world in the wonderful and fearful shades of grey, opens the exciting realities of complexity, weakening security but strengthen our ability to navigate the foggy waters of the unknown.