Saturday, February 25, 2023

Labeling By Surprise

Have you ever paid attention to the various labels used every day?  I guess at a basic level we are trying to describe what we are seeing and experiencing.  But, I wonder, how often we use words to box people in... to limit or bias the story-telling... to hurt or distance ourselves from others?

It's an eye-opening exercise to notice the labels you might use regularly or the ones you hear between family, friends or work colleagues:  male, female or non-binary; married, single or divorced; black, white, or BIPOC; straight or LGBTQIA+; energetic or lazy; trusted or shady...

The list goes on and on as we try to understand our world and convey thoughts and ideas to another person.

How do you see and describe your world?
(Photo credit: The Harmful Effects of Labeling People
(Ourselves and Others), Plus Finding Hope for the Future

- Leigh Aguirre, Registered Nurse at UCHealth)

I realize that even raising this to our consciousness might be labeled as Woke by some people... which raises more questions about what "woke culture" is and why it has been given a certain framework.  Words and actions are the ways that we communicate our thoughts and feelings to another person:  individuals trying to understand.

As an introvert, my thoughts are often jumbled or half-cooked when I decide to share ideas. Conveying intangible ideas by using language is almost like capturing smoke... as the smoke disappears!

Are we surprised by what we see or hear?
(Photo credit: Is a Surprise More Enjoyable
for the Receiver or the Giver?

- Nici Lucas, The Days of Gifts)

A dialogue practitioner mentioned to me recently her intention to "Keep space to be surprised."  That is, rather than becoming stuck on a word or label used by someone else, her hope is to become more curious, asking questions, and trying to understand the thought behind the word or label.

Rather than remaining on the surface level with the label, it may be more important to understand more deeply what the person is seeing and trying to convey.  Oftentimes, a label can be -- or is -- used to distract or separate us.  Questions and curiosity can focus and draw us together.

How can we bridge what divides us?
(Photo credit: Togetherness without being Together
- Abhineet Mittal)

Surprise might be the key to understanding the intangibles that we cannot see:

  • What does that word or label mean?
  • How is it being used?
  • Why is this important to the other person?

Also, we may be surprised by what we discover when we ask questions, listen, and allow intangible ideas to transform into tangible actions of understanding.

May we be surprised this week when the smoke clears and our intentions are revealed.

Larry Gardepie

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