Labels Limit Human Interaction

I write a lot about seeing past the labels we give our children to seeing the whole child.  However it is not just children we label, we also label and categorize adults.  We think it feels easier to know how to interact with another person if we can first place him or her in a category then we think we know what to say or how to behave.

One of my favorite psychologist/writers since I was in college was Clark Moustakas. I liked his emphasis on developing inner strength in order to be your best self in relationships.  I recently came across this quote and thought it conveyed what happens when we label people.

“Labels and classifications make it appear that we know the other, when actually, we have caught the shadow and not the substance.  Since we are convinced we know ourselves and others…[we] no longer actually see what is happening before us and in us, and not knowing that we do not know, we make no efforts to be in contact with the real.  We continue to use labels to stereotype ourselves and others, and those labels have replaced human meaning, unique feelings and growing life within and between persons.” Clark Moustakas, as quoted in People Skills by Robert Bolton, PhD.

Disability labels too often define how we interact with a person with that label.  We focus on the label and what it implies to us rather than focusing on the human being. We cannot possibly know another person if we think the label describes the person.  It often prevents us from going deeper to forge a relationship and a spiritual connection. Seeing past the label can be risky and can take us out of our comfort zone.  Yet taking the risk is always worth it because we learn something about ourselves and others which makes life meaningful.

Categories Beyond Labels | Tags: | Posted on February 10, 2010

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