Sunday, February 20, 2011

Titles and Labels...

This daybreak as I was traveling the journey through my Blog List- reading and commenting, I unexpectedly became captivated with titles of the blogs I frequent: Joyful Reflections, Brian's Home, Let your Light Shine, The Rural JournalThe Run*Around*Ranch Report and Simple Southern Happiness to identify a diminutive number of the varied posts I visit.

I attempted to surmise the contents of the blog with the title; did the title define the blog? Or did the blog define the title? And on either account, was the innards a fair tagging of the person who authored the journal of beliefs, thoughts or feelings?

This concept of labels intrigues me because as a result of branding people we make snap judgments of folks be it fair or unfair. As a special education teacher, my students need to carry a label to even ‘be’ one of my students. When I am searching for my latest read amongst the shelves of many; I glance at the title and make a quick deduction of whether the book sounds intriguing, boring or absorbing purely on the heading.

Furthermore, I once misjudged the parent of a student who rode a motorcycle, wore black leather and a lengthy ponytail with tattoos up and down his arms and piercings galore. I wrongly assumed he was a gruff less than loving parent to his child with Down’s syndrome. When I learned otherwise, I admittedly spoke of my mistake to him in a revealing conversation.

Good, bad or indifferent, we conduct this seemingly hasty process with individuals. We see someone’s dress, their outer appearance, listen to their words and decide whether the person is worthy of our time to embark in conversation, put forward a lending hand or reveal details of our lives.

No doubt, often times this is necessary to protect and shield ourselves from harm. Does it serve any other purpose to our benefit?

Truthfully by nature, I am a very guarded, calm and quiet person. How many times have others viewed me as stuck up or snobbish to which I am neither? Moreover based on my self-preservation and introvert characteristics, do folks assume I’m less than intelligent and have little to share or contribute? These are truly thoughts to ponder.

In closing, I propose two questions for you my readers;

1.) How do you avoid falling into the trap of labeling others?

2.) Have you been misjudged in a way that has been a detriment to you and your life at any particular time?

"We love labels. We really do-- as a society, I mean.
It's so much easier to understand the world around us if we name it, tie it down,
and distance ourselves from the parts we don't like...
We all want to be loved, we all want to love, and we all want


texwisgirl said...

My father was intolerant, prejudiced, afraid of folks who were 'different'. Even as a kid, I thought this was incredibly wrong so I tried to see something good, interesting, worthwhile in everyone. I never fit into one clique in high school but often meandered between almost all of them. I try to be tolerant of differences and try not to register shock or judgement at appearances because most certainly I could be judged on mine as well.

I don't think I've been midjudged too harshly, but I know my husband has - one look and folks think intimidating or dangerous or whatever. And most often, they're way off base as he's the most polite and tolerant and respectful person...

Linda Reeder said...

There is much truth in your words. As a senior teacher and literacy coach, I was considered "intimidating" by some of my colleagues. Insecure and introverted me, intimidating! Remarkable! I was quite shocked to hear this.
I find that young people are often misjudged by their appearance. This happened to my kids, especially my son, growing up during the Grunge era in Seattle. I try to remember this before making snap judgements of others. I actually like different, quirky people.

Catherine said...

Those are very good questions Tracy!

One thing I always try to do when I see someone or meet someone that I think is a 'certain type', is that: We all have stories that would break a heart. We all started out as someone's baby. No one knows what is going on in another person's life behind closed doors. And everyone has seen and felt pain.

If someone is 'not my cup of tea' or vice versa, that is alright, but there should always be respect, consideration and kindness when interacting with others.

I think we have all been misjudged at some point in time of our lives. It does't feel good so we have to remember that if we are judging others.

I do the hiring for where I work and I have learned that what you see in a person during a 1 hour interview is not always who the person is. I have tried to learn that 1st impressions aren't always what they seem ~ positive or negative.

Excellent post Tracy!
xo Catherine

Teresa Evangeline said...

I've found that labeling people restricts the possibilities for getting to know them on a truer basis. I'm almost always surprised by people, in a very good way. One of the biggest lessons I'm learning in life is: don't make any assumptions. A very thoughtful post, Tracy.

Grace on the Narrow Path said...

From a writer's perspective ... It is often the title of a book, article or blog that attracts my interest. As for judging people by their appearence, I recall the old saying, "Don't judge a book by it's cover."
It is good to know that the author of us all is constantly editing us. God bless you for sharing this insightful post today.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Excellent post!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Great post, Trac.... We all do at least some of the labeling you talk about.... I do form an opinion of someone just by what he/she looks like.. Guess some of that is human nature.. However, once you get to know someone, he/she may not be at all like what you thought at first... First impressions are so important...

People have always judged me by my weight. Because so many think of fat people as lazy, I had to work twice as hard to prove myself as most---or at least, "I" thought I had to... Being overweight is so hard because our 'addiction' is so obvious... I never smoked or drank or did drugs... But--I have had a weight problem all of my adult life... Tain't fun---when you 'feel' people laughing at you!!!

None of us needs to judge someone by their appearance.. BUT--we do!! Guess that is something we all need to work on.


Out on the prairie said...

I laugh when I meet people I correspond with, and try to assume what they were like. One lady I wrote back and forth with surprised me that we were way different in age, where I thought similar.We met at a conference and I laughed at the tiny mom who did the same things I was up to.Diversity is what I place in my writings to show we all are similar yet so different in some ways.

Pk Hrezo said...

Very thought provoking, indeed. I try to remember these very points when confronted with someone who may turn me off. I'd say it's pretty easy to make assumptions about someone with poor hygiene. And I know I've had peeps misinterpret who I am because I may not always speak up. As an observer, I'm quiet by nature, but that just means I pay attention to EVERYTHING. I can see how you'd mistake the intentions of the biker dad. But what a pleasant surprise, eh?! I love it when stuff like that happens. I try to create characters who are similar.

Linda Myers said...

I've worked to become less judgmental. I think it might have been a protective mechanism, but as I get older I appreciate our differences. These days, political polarity in the United States ramps up the judgments made about people who think differently. Listening to each other, really listening, might be good. I suspect we all want the same things in the long run.

Wanda's Wings said...

My life has made me less judgmental than I used to be. We can not always see the pain that makes some one look or act a certain way. Someone took the time to look past my faults and I think that is what changed the way I look at others.

Dawn said...

Oh those questions make me a tad sad. I have done this...and yes- it has affected me.....
I have been working on it and in the last couple years have made a lot of progress......and I am learning. The hard way at times.

I was raised in a legalistic - religious area and it was always judging the actions, motives, thoughts of everyone. Sadly it rubbed off on to me.
Trying to break free...hence my Puzzle Pieces as I try to figure out what everything is that REALLY matters:))

Simple "T" said...

You asked:

1.) How do you avoid falling into the trap of labeling others?

Labels were apart of the holier-than-thou churches I grew up in; Who appointed those people God?. Yes, even in churches there are labels but now I know they sit on a judgment set that God did not appoint to them. One can sure miss out on a true blessing if they/we keep our eyes shut and blinded by appearances or whatever. And it can be someone's else's demise too from shunning a person because of what we so call "SEE". It can also be a soul breaker and cause some people to stumble trying to find self worth. {answer at the end of question 2.}

2.) Have you been misjudged in a way that has been a detriment to you and your life at any particular time?

Plenty, and more than I care to mention. If you post labels, you are sure to have them posted on you.

Labels caused me to stumble and head down some wrong paths trying to fit in and find my self worth.

Thank the lord I am free from that bondage and I try and see the good in everyone. I look at the heart of the person now. I have gotten away from the negative parent and church that brain washed my way of thinking and praising God my heart has been humbled and I found a church that sees the heart.

Labeling will still continue with people till the lord comes or till they have the love of the lord in them. Lets pray for both to come soon.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Your "Thoughtful Place" is truly named. A very thoughtful, and thought-provoking post, Tracy.

Ginny said...

How very thought provoking and multi-layred this post is!! It's so coincidental, the blog I just commented on before you was talking about letting your real self be shown and acceptance, this is so much all tied together. It seems that most of us don't show our true selves because we are afraid of not being acceptd, or being labeled. Sadly, a lot of times it is necessary not to show or true selves because people are so judgemental, they just can't help it. Perhaps it's part of a survival instinct? We really do need to judge people in certain circumstances. Like hiring people or being able to trust them in certain situations. My little granddaughter is very shy of strangers and won't talk to them when you tell her to say hello, but some people view this as her being a prima dona or a "better than you" attitude. Not labeling others is hard! In my first impressions of someone, I always remember that I may be shown wrong and my label could be only a temporary one. I like to let them create their own labels by their words and actions. We all need to act like the label we would want!!

KathyA said...

Profound questions...

1. My dad used to say, "If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all."

2. And taking his advice, I bite my tongue a lot. I also 'bite' my brain when I'm thinking of labeling someone!

3. I'm positive people have labeled me at one time or another, but that still doesn't change who I am.

Julie Musil said...

What a great topic. I've been wrong about people so many times, and now at this stage in my life, I try not to make snap judgements. And like KathyA, I'm much better at holding my tongue than I was in my teens or 20's. I'm still a work in progress :D

The Words Crafter said...

Truth, you're speaking it. We do it as a process of categorization, just as we did as children when we learned to differentiate between mammals, fish, and birds. It's a sad truth that we do it with people. Yes, there are differences that are readily obvious, but to stop based on surface, cursory information is not only unfair to the person, we may be missing out on someone wonderful.

People have told me that they used to think I was stuck up because I'm shy. I've learned to be a bit more outgoing and upfront about my shyness. Then, people tend to take the initiative and before long, we're talking away.

And my blog title sums me up. Love me some rainy, gray, misty days when I can wander around in stories, music, or my own imagination.

Cool and thoughtful post!

Nancy@A Rural Journal said...

I want to believe that reading a book by its cover is a generational thing. My parents were far more intolerant of people who were "different" than they. I, on the other hand, turned out to be one of those different people they warned me about!

But I'm still me -- no matter what particular label people choose to place on me. :)

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

Tracy great post! After working in a prison for 20 years I learned early not to label people. The inmates often ask me why I did not treat them like other Officers and I honestly told them if not for the grace of God I could be just where they are today. So honestly that is how I look at everyone the same no matter where I am or what I am doing.
Also I laughed at your comment about me mistakely calling your son your sorry of course I know you are not old enough to have a grandson. I guess I am so use to writing grandson down that I did it on that comment. Even though I knew when I was reading it that he was your son. Forgive me.
Love ya

amy said...

Oh my gosh--yes! I'm so quiet and shy by nature that people have mistaken it for being snobbish, but I am just scared to death to open my mouth! I don't call and order pizza--thank God for internet ordering. :) On top of that I'm a blonde, which to some people means that I'm dumb: a dumb blonde. I don't think you can escape labels. I've tried hard not to label my children, but society does it so much the kids give themselves labels--it's a shame. We are so much more than the labels we wear.

LTM said...

I remember when I was in HS, I was in my head a lot daydreaming and such, and I was often mistaken for a "rich b!tch" b/c I had a nice car and dressed well. People would say, "You're not at all what I thought." I never thought anything of it.

I'm still in my head a lot, but I've found as I've gotten older I have a tendency to make snap judgments. I try to resist, though... Good stuff, Trace! :o) <3

Was that biker part of the Riley-Raley group?

Daisy said...

Great post, Tracy. I think we all do this at times even though we try not to judge and label others.

Peggy K said...

Two things I notice since I've started visiting your blog...1) you really do have some posts that provide food for thought, and 2) those who comment aren't just leaving one sentence responses. Many times they are well thought out.
I feel that the labels are just what we as humans have been raised to use to help us categorize. They helps us figure things out. There was a study once that had adults looking at a baby (not identified as girl or boy) and they had difficulty answering questions when they didn't know the sex of the baby.
So I think we always label, but it's important to teach our children that regardless of labels, one should always keep an open mind instead of allowing the label to close the mind. To paraphrase...Don't judge until you've walked a mile in my shoes.

Jayne said...

My tendency has been one not to judge, but I've struggled with making decisions about how people should behave or act and placing my expectations upon them. It's something the perfectionist in me is continually working on and by at least being cognizant of it, I can stop myself when I do it more often. Since I deal with people from all walks of life in my profession, I can generally meet people where they are. As human beings though, there is always that tendency to make snap judgments. Wonderful post Tracy.

DoanLegacy said...

I believe as human being, we tend to judge on the first impression, and some time it's with that intuition true, and some time it takes a little longer to find faults in our own thoughts.

Sylvia Ney said...

What a great post!

1.) I have a large/diverse family and friends with vastly different appearances (such as the biker tatooed look from a few). Remembering their differences and backgrounds helps (but doesn't quite prevent) me from making snap judgements of my own. The human race is capable of terrible hatred and stupidity. Unfortunately, I think it's easier for us to remember that sometimes and we assume the worst of others.

2.) I will say yes, but refrain from explaining. At least those experiences serve to remind me not to judge others too quickly.

OK, that's enough deep discussion/reading for one morning. Remember to smile today!

Barb said...

Oh, I'm guilty of this labeling and judgement, though I wish I wasn't and sometimes think I'm not. Last week in the city, 2 young men approached me. They had dreadlocks, wore boarder pants, and looked scruffy. My heart froze up in apprehension just before one politely asked me where a certain street was located. I felt ashamed of myself.

Sue said...

A very thoughtful and thought provoking post.

One of my favorite blog titles is " Life, liberty and the pursuit of bacon". Wish I'd thought of it first.

Krista said...

What a fascinating and thought-provoking post!

Wow, let's see... to answer your questions... I am going to answer them in reverse order because the answer to Q#2 leads me to the answer to Q#1.

Many times I have been judged prematurely, to my own detriment. Like you, I am quiet and a bit reserved when meeting people. Many times I have been told by people, "when I first met you, before I knew you, I thought you were snobby and stuck up because you didn't talk much."

I have been told by more than one man that he never asked me out because he was intimidated because "clearly I would never date someone who (fill in the blanks here; it could be anything." When I asked them about that, none could give me a particular reason for thinking that about me so it must have been just an immediate judgment based on something superficial.

It's painful to be judged this way! In reality I am kind, generous, fun and have a love for life that people who know me think is contagious and addictive! This is how I (try to) keep from judging others in the same way. I imagine all of the great things I might be missing out on by not giving a person a chance to be a great friend/achieve that particular work goal/rock my love life to its socks.

It doesn't always work but I have met and gotten to know some of the GREATEST people who I might have missed out on had I gone with my original assumptions about them. :o)

Jen said...

Great post. I'm usually a 'first impression', type. I try to be more open minded, but it hard after getting burned many times.

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