Thursday, April 12, 2012

What’s in a name? Absolute disregard.

Leadership and Self Deception called it: “Being inside the box”

 Crucial Conversations called it: “Labeling”

The Anatomy of Peace called it: “Lumping into a stereotype”

They are all talking about seeing people as anything less than a complete and complex human being.

Here are a few quotes from the first book: Leadership and Self Deception

1. “Either I’m seeing others straightforwardly as they are - as people like me who have needs and desires as legitimate as my own – or I’m not.
2. “Smart people are smarter, skilled people are more skilled, and hardworking people work harder “when they see, and are seen, straightforwardly – as people.
3. “If I’m not interested in knowing a person’s name, I’m probably not really interested in the person as a person.”
4. “Don’t lump the people you’re thinking about into an impersonal mass. Think of individuals…Think of the people.”

It’s very true.  I do it every day.  I’m a psychiatrist in training, and everyday I am asked to label people.  I am asked to diagnose them and treat them.  Patient #1 is a Schizophrenic, #2 is a Borderline, etc…  It’s very easy to stop seeing them as people and just see them as a diagnosis.  If I can do that then I can stop worrying about them, and their lives, and their feelings.  I can treat their stated symptoms and go home.  I don’t have to worry about their visitors, their comfort, their real needs or anything. This way is easier.  It’s simpler.  I just slap a label on them and go home.

My realization of my struggle and our apparent propensity to categorize or label people was brought out again in Crucial Conversations:

1.“Labeling is putting a label on people or ideas so we can dismiss them under a general stereotype or category.
2. “Lord, help me forgive those who sin differently than I.”
3. “By employing a handy label, we are now dealing not with a complex human being, but with a bonehead.”

I do this with people every day.  I am a conservative independent, which means I usually agree with the republicans and disagree with the democrats – I’m just sick of political parties so I refuse to be a republican.

        When one of my facebook friends wrote a post about “Plan B” for birth control, I agreed with the sentiment of the other conservatives responding.  I thought – yep, that’s abortion, that’s murder, that’s wrong.  The friend posting must be a bleeding heart liberal.  She probably has never stopped to consider any opinion other than her own.  She must be blinded by her partisan and left wing ideation.  To quote the book – she must be “a bonehead.”

         I labeled her.  I discounted her as a “liberal” and that meant I no longer had to consider anything she said as “valid.”  She was part of an “extreme” group, and everything about her must be wrong, tainted, misled, etc…  Forget the fact that she is one of the smartest people I knew in High school, she is in her 4th year of medical school, and she is well read and stays current.  Luckily she took a little time and convinced me to research how plan B actually works.  When I found it has many of the same mechanisms as an IUD for preventing pregnancy, suddenly my viewpoint changed.  Not only did my view of the subject change, but my view of her changed.  She was once again a person, not a “bonehead liberal.”

The last part of my realization was from The Anatomy of Peace:
1. "Lumping everyone of a particular race or culture or faith into a single stereotype is a way of failing to see them as people."
2. "When we start seeing others as objects we begin provoking them to make our lives difficult.  We actually start inviting others to make us miserable."
3. "Another characteristic of conflicts…is the propensity to demonize others.  One way we do this is by lumping others into lifeless categories – bigoted whites, lazy blacks, crass Americans, arrogant Europeans, violent Arabs, manipulative Jews, and so on.  When we do this we make masses of unknown people into objects and many of them into our enemies."

Does that last paragraph sound like presidential politics to anyone else?  I hear labels like: Socialist, Rich snob, Flip-Flopper, Baby-killer, Tax-evader, Communist, Cult member, etc…
     "Let's tell people he's not American."  "Let's tell people he's not Christian." -  It seems all the political parties want to do is find a label that scares people, then make it stick to the other side’s candidate.  

Labels and stereotypes are killing us.
  They allow us to ignore people, to write them off.  They allow us to dehumanize everyone who doesn’t agree with us.

We must see people as people, anything less is just plain wrong.

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