LABELLING is a way for people to identify certain behaviours or quirks in a person.

It is most commonly associated with the sociology of bad doings — labelling is associated with behaviour and usually has negative connotations. When a person labels someone negatively, others are likely to be biased against that person.

Teachers, counsellors and even parents often label a child based on a specific aspect of the child's behaviour or personality. The label then becomes an integral part of producing what is referred to as a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

Everyone responds to the person based on the label and they expect a behaviour that conforms to the label. Over time, the person begins to believe he is what he has been “labelled” and acts as such.

When we label someone, we disable them. We prevent them from doing and becoming whatever they want to be and can be.

We are narrowing their possibilities and limiting their potential. In the long run, a “labelled person” will have a very hard time breaking away from the label.

We tend to characterise people and put them into categories. We may say it’s a way of trying to simplify the world.

Labelling a person as difficult (or stubborn, boring and untrustworthy) is like predicting their behaviour and actions in the immediate and long-term future.

You are using the labels to create expectations on your part about how that person will behave. It’s not good.

When we have negative expectations about someone based on a label, we act differently than we would with someone we have positive expectations of.

Your expectations and labels of people can cause you to create the exact behaviour you believe will happen.

Stop labelling. Focus on what people do, not who you think they are.

AZIZI AHMAD, 
Kuala Lumpur

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