Stop labelling and start communicating

Leaders: Stop labelling and start communicating

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Labelling others. We do it all the time. Labels make life easy for us.

In the supermarket, labels make it easy to identify and pick up the exact items we want, and on our clothes, they tell us how we should and shouldn’t treat them.

But people aren’t objects. We place labels on them based on our assumptions, and our past experience – but how often are these labels really fair?

Labels are just a way of judging others. Sometimes the judgments we make, and the labels we apply are positive ones, but more often than not they are negative. It’s easier to identify what we don’t like.

Why labels are unfair

Like clothing labels, the labels we attach to people can make us treat them in a particular way. We make assumptions about how well they can do a particular task based on the labels we’ve given them.

We might think “There’s no point saying that to her – she won’t listen, she’s too sensitive.” Or “He’s lazy, and I need this done quickly; I’ll give it to someone else.”

Maybe you think ‘she’ is too sensitive because she once reacted badly to what you considered fair and constructive criticism. But you didn’t know that she was dealing with a bereavement at the time.

Or you think ‘he’ is lazy because his previous manager told you so.

Once you attach a label to a person that is how you see them, and it’s very difficult for that person to shake the label off. You might even share the label you’ve given them with others, and then more people attach the same label.

Is this really fair? Perhaps Mr. Lazy is feeling unchallenged and bored, and if you gave him a challenging task, he’d grab it by the horns and surprise you. Perhaps Ms. Sensitive is normally very emotionally resilient and would be open to any feedback you gave her.

Labels create barriers. By attaching labels to people, we pigeonhole them. It’s not fair to them, and as leaders, we might miss an opportunity to nurture and develop people’s true talents because we pass them by based on a label.

If you’re determined to make the change, book in a call with me to see how I can help you challenge your own assumptions and make a positive difference in your work.

How do I stop labelling people?

In many ways, labelling is a natural human instinct. We all have a tendency to do it. To stop doing it, we need to be aware that we are labelling people to help us create a change in our behaviour.

Instead of relying on the labels you and others have given to people, what if you asked them some questions, gave them a chance, and got to know them a little better?

When you get people to reveal their own experience, knowledge, and opinions, they will probably surprise you. You might learn that the labels you’ve attached to them don’t really apply at all!

Pay attention to the labels you’re giving people. In what ways are those labels limiting them? What happens when you view them without the label?

Take the time to speak to your team, get to know them and see how the labels you’ve attached to them might be limiting them.

If you’re determined to make the change, book in a call with me to see how I can help you challenge your own assumptions and make a positive difference in your work.

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You can’t be a great leader, if you’re not a great you.

Andrea helps you focus on leading yourself first, so you can be a great leader. Start getting your regular dose of leadership tips and inspiration with the ‘Leadership Breather’ – encouraging you to give yourself a breather and take 5 minutes for you.


  1. Debbie Jackson

    Great post Andrea, really helpful.. its helped me see how I can use in a session tomorrow, I was struggling to find sense until I read this. Thank you

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