Tamara J Gordy

Facilitating sustainable environmental and social impact


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Cultivating connection: How labels get in the way of understanding

We judge each other all the time. It happens so fast that we barely even think about it.

Our minds like categorizing things. It simplifies the otherwise hard work of processing complicated information. We mentally classify people into varying shades of good and bad, right and wrong, in and out, like and don’t like.  We use labels to describe what people are like.

I am….

You are …

They are …

Judging and labeling aren’t wrong in and of themselves.  You won’t catch me making a judgement about judgement here. It is just that sometimes we let our judgement get in the way of our connection.  Every time judging shortcuts communication, it is a missed chance to really understand each other.

Have you ever noticed how once you’ve made a judgement about someone, they almost immediately do something that seems to confirm it?  Once labelled selfish, that guy is sure to act selfish.  Or at least that is what I am going to see. It turns out that our brains like to be right so much that we tend to over-weight signals that confirm our diagnosis, and ignore or underweight ones that show a more subtle picture.

We seem wired to fool ourselves into thinking that the labels we assign are complete and correct, and that there is no point in looking any further. The conundrum is that if we are truly after connection and understanding, the only way to get there is to by actually looking further.

It strikes me that suspending judgement in order to give ourselves time enough to be curious is the best way past this dilemma.  Instead of “what a jerk”, I have a chance to wonder why this person does the things he does, how she came to believe things that sound totally crazy to me. By staying curious and interested I have the chance to deepen my understanding and our possibility for connection so much more than if I jump to judgement.

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