Posts Tagged ‘labels’

It’s all in the name

Monday, January 24th, 2011

I wonder if you would buy these Danish liquorice sweets… I suspect only as a joke.

There is a fascinating history or misnamed products that we attempted to export. Some old English favourites simply don’t do well in the States…

The thing is names have power which is why some primitive societies will not tell you their true names. 

When we make judgements about people and label them as “stupid”  “lazy”  “past it” etc. it becomes hard to see the person when all we see is the label.  Sometimes Change can begin with something as simple as changing our labels.  Think of all those Hollywood movies where the hero suddenly sees the love of his life as the plain Jane he has always ignores.   People hide in plain view because we forget how to look at all of them.

How’s about making the day you look a little deeper at the people who you no longer see?

The value of a label

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Regular readers may recall that I have often blogged on the negative habit of labelling.  However, yesterday I was reminded of the positive impact of labelling.  I was working with a client and they were somewhat confused by an upcoming trip to Australia.  They are new in their post and this was an important inaugural visit.  Obviously you only get one chance to make a first impression and this trip was springboard for their new appointment.

We spent some time discussing all the things that they wanted to achieve  and gradually whittled away the list till we were only looking at tasks that had to be done on this trip.  I said “This is only housekeeping then…”  Their face lit up and I could see clarity dawning, their stress level fell instantly.  I later heard them talking about the trip as “just housekeeping!

Once you have the right label on the tin you know what is expected of you.

Have you any interesting examples of the positive impact of giving something a label?

“Man is the only critter who feels the need to label things as flowers or weeds.”

Planning is human (or easy with the Dymo buddy!)

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

I remember when I was younger hearing some  ‘expert’ saying that the thing that differentiated man from the animals was our ability to make & use tools.  That myth has since been exploded many times over as it has been shown that chimps can use sticks to extract termites form the their nests, water to separate rice, and even birds use stones to crack the shells of their prey animals.

Never mind, surely planning ahead is a purely human trait after all it requires you to anticipate future events and act on your preferences.  Not so apparently.  A 31 yr old chimp called Santino in Furvik zoo in Sweden doesn’t like visitors intruding on his privacy and he communicates this by flinging stones at them.  Apparently he isn’t the only great ape to do this but what was a big surprise was when the zoo keeper found he was caching his ammunition ahead of time so he had plenty of stones to throw!  Not only that but he pounds the concrete to make discus like projectiles.

So it seems the dividing line between man and his closest cousins isn’t is planning either .. .perhaps it is his hubris?  We are so anxious to label everything and having labelled it we can then safely dismiss it.  I suspect that labels and standard responses are uniquely human.  Of course this saves us a lot of time  and is one of the corner stones of our advance up the evolutionary ladder but it also has inherent problems, especially when the ‘thing’ we are labelling is another person.  Comments such as “Oh Joe.. he’s just a trouble maker!” enable us to cease to listen to anything Joe says.  The trouble is that sometimes Joe is right! 

Having recently been on the periphery of a spat on a social network, I can see that this might well have been at the root of the misunderstanding.  I know that when I recently met someone who had often been labelled as a bit of an idiot, I was very impressed with the real person.  We have to be very careful what we do with our labels.

“Labels are for cans, not people.”   Anthony Rapp



A blessing or a curse?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I caught all of 3 minutes of a documentary on Sky the other day called “The Real Dirk Diggler”.  It was the story of John Holmes, the man  on whose life the movie, Boggie Nights, was loosely based.  Without getting too bogged down in the specifics, this man was a very well endowed chap.  The interesting thing is that this apparent blessing became a curse that destroyed him.  He seemed to define and think of himself solely in terms of this ‘gift’.  Other people can take an event that would crush another person in their stride, just think of the Para-Olympics.  Why is it that an event that most people would label as ‘good’ can harm, and equally a ‘bad’ one can almost make someone?

I think the secret is that the events and things are not intrinsically good or bad, it is just how we chose to label and respond to them.  The same is true of people, if we label someone ‘no good’ then that is all that we see and all that we get from them.  Someone else with a more positive view almost certainly gets a much better response.  So our labels have huge power to affect not only our own lives but also those who we work and live with.  Labels, are just another handy, labour-saving devices, but they need reviewing or they can be dangerous.

So today maybe a good day to take stock of your labels and check they are all still valid and serving you.

“A name is a label, and as soon as there is a label, the ideas disappear and out comes label-worship and label-bashing, and instead of living by a theme of ideas, people begin dying for labels… and the last thing the world needs is another religion.”   Richard Bach


1.  The real Dirk Diggler

Majorcan Blog No 8:

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Some of the trees in the garden are over grown with purple bindweed, or columbine. The colour is absolutely exquisiteite and it always draws my eye. I find it odd that something so fabulous could be considered a weed; I’d happily plant it at home if it would grow there.

It is odd, when you think of it, that we name some plants ‘weeds’ and others not. I guess ‘weed’ is just another label we use. Odder though, as my sister pointed out, that when we use it as an insult it implies weak, but in truth, weeds are strong and grow where they choose, not where they are planted. They are free spirits, rather than tethered and controlled. I think, on balance, I’d rather be a weed than a plant…

Designer Labels

Monday, June 16th, 2008

We live in a society obsessed with designer labels. Certainly some of these designers merit their status and make lovely clothes and cars etc. However, as others have just cashed in on their names and sold the right to put them on any old toot, these labels are no guarantee of style. It is interesting that there is now a huge market in known fake designer goods, where people boast about having ‘knock-offs’

There are posh addresses to live in, and ‘in’ places to hang out, and God knows the media is utterly obsessed with celebrities, which really these days just means someone you have heard of.

So how does it feel to be ordinary in this label led world? How do we feel about just driving any old car, wearing clothes from the high street, rather than the cat-walk, and just being Joe (or Josephine) Ordinary?

I enjoy the few really nice things I have, as I am sure you do, but to feel that your value is somehow changed by these things seems daft. I just wonder what the other labels we put on ourselves do for us.. And those that others place round our necks?

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” Epictetus
“Our achievements of today are but the sum total of our thoughts of yesterday. You are today where the thoughts of yesterday have brought you and you will be tomorrow where the thoughts of today take you” Blaise Pascal


More labels

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

I wrote yesterday about labelling things and people.  Some of you have already pointed out both the value and inevitability of this strategy.  I agree.  However, it has hidden drawbacks too, that we seldom see.  Imagine someone giving you a Swiss army knife with a dozen different handy tools.  If you only ever use the knife blade after a while you cease to consider its potential value as a bottle opener or a screw driver.  People are like this too.  Particularly at work, we can tend to see people as rather 2 dimensional and forget that they have a life outside work.  The more we see and relate to the whole person the more of themselves they bring to work and the more they have to offer.

We also label ourselves.  It is very typical for people to introduce themselves with a label; “Hi, I’m Sophie’s husband” or “Yes, I’m the Sales Director” or “I work for Eagle Star“.  When we think of ourselves through this filter of our labels we limit ourselves too.  I am more than just someone’s husband, someone’s father, someone’s son, someone’s neighbour etc. 

We label our behaviours and responses as “Good” and “Bad”, when it would be much better if we asked if they were appropriate or not; helpful or not; affirming or not? 

Perhaps today is the day to peel off some of these labels and see what potential you can unleash…

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?'”  George Bernard Shaw

“We love labels. We really do–as a society, I mean. It’s so much easier to understand the world around us if we name it, tie it down, and distance ourselves from the parts we don’t like…. We all want to beloved, we all want to love, and we all want”

A place for everything…

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

So the kitchen has been installed in Cooke Towers and we are trying to convert the chaos that the process left into its wake into a working kitchen.  When all you have is empty drawers they are just potential waiting to be filled, however at this stage there is no right way to do so.  In a working kitchen, or office, you can just reach out and lay your hands on the tools you need.  

People can be like this, raw potential, until you have labelled them and, perhaps, restricted them.  Labels are useful, they help us navigate our world, but when it comes to people, and even experiences, they have a price.

We find labels we give ‘useful’ but most of us resent it when we are labelled, so use them judiciously…

Labels are for cans, not people.”  Anthony Rapp