Labeling and Judging: Why Do We Label Others?

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Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Spirituality, Things I've Learned, Thought | Posted on 01-26-2016

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

Being JudgedNow that I’m often observing my thoughts, I’ve noticed some that surprise me.  For instance, I never thought of myself as judgmental, yet some of my thoughts tell me otherwise.

Perhaps “judgmental” is too strong of a word, but I have noticed a certain “instant” labeling of people that could be considered judgmental. For example, a few weeks ago at the hair salon I became aware in my mind of labeling each woman who came in. Just tiny little characterizations that were an initial reaction to them based on a quick appraisal of what they looked like, or even what they were wearing. This surprised me as I never thought of myself as the judgy type–especially when it comes to clothing! Yet I seemed to make split second judgments such as, “Those are cute jeans.” or “She could stand to lose a few pounds.” I also found myself labeling them based on their conversations with their hair stylist: “She’s a Mom at home whose kids are at school.” “She’s someone who complains incessantly.” “She’s someone who is always sick.” “She’s an upbeat person, who’d probably be cool to hang out with.”

Do our judgments limit us?

All of these were fleeting thoughts. Had I not been used to observing them, they would have gone unnoticed as I’m sure they have many times before. Because I did notice them, however, it made me wonder if I was somehow limiting myself and my ability to relate to others. If I’m already judging and categorizing someone before I even speak to them, how might this affect my ability to make friends or even have a conversation? Am I only interested in relationships with people I’ve put into certain categories and ignore the rest? Does labeling others, in general, serve any real purpose?

As I pondered these questions, I wondered if there was some way of not creating those labels. Was it possible to observe people and not try to judge and/or categorize them? It seemed to me that I had some sort of automatic need to put everything and everyone I saw into words.

What happened next, surprised me.

As I looked around at the variety of characters surrounding me, instead of trying to describe their superficial features to myself, I simply sent them a silent “I love you.” Yeah I know it sounds super corny, especially coming from someone who can barely say those words out loud, but that’s what I did.

And it was cool.

I’d love to tell you that the whole feeling in the room changed and I suddenly felt an amazing surge of unconditional love and world peace, but that didn’t happen. By the time I thought to try it, it was time for my shampoo and I was onto my next set of thoughts! 🙂 What I noticed, however, was that sending a silent “I love you” to strangers was a good substitute for trying to characterize them with a label. After all, how can you judge someone when you’re saying “I love you”?

While this revelation happened a few weeks ago, in all honesty, I haven’t remembered to put it into practice much. Now that I’m openly writing about it, I hope it will occur to me more often as I go my about my business in the world. The few times I have remembered to try it, as far as I could tell it did seem to stop the labeling and judgy thoughts–which was the point. So I may have stumbled onto something here!

I’ll be sure to let you know in a future post or within the comments here if I notice any shift or change in the way I relate to others as I put this into practice more often. I’d also love to hear from you if you decide to try this or if you’ve done something similar in the past. Please let me know how it turned out.

–Jill

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P.S. As always, feel free to contact me anytime to discuss this or anything else that I write about or whatever else might be on your mind!

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CONTACT JILL WHALEN to learn how she may help you be the best you can be.

Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

Jill’s blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she’s learned throughout her transformational journey. Jill has many “viral” articles on LinkedIn and is a contributing writer for P.S. I Love You.

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Leave Your Thoughts Below(2)

A lovely re-humanising experience, Jill, thank you. So easy to do, to separate others we do not know into clear, but made up, categories. So much more rewarding to resist doing this, and your way of doing it is via this silent “I love you”, and to see what results.

I recently did this meeting several people I did not know. I could’ve easily decided to frown internally at some and open up internally to others. Instead, I kinda spoke to them as if they were already my friends, and I was used to their particular personal peculiarities. I know I enjoyed their company more, and I also know that they enjoyed my company more, too…

🙂

That is very cool, Steve! It’s definitely not feeling natural for me to just be open to everyone right at the start. (Probably my shy/introvert nature from the past.) But I’m planning on trying to keep this top of mind to see where it takes me in the future. Love hearing how others have noticed similar things!

Thanks so much for your comment!