\ Leaning On Labels | Christina Brandt

Leaning on Labels

You’re such a Quick Start!

For those of you who haven’t heard of the Kolbe A Index, this is a reference to Kathy Kolbe’s inventory of conative (or action) styles.  A fellow Kolbe afficionado lobbed this comment my way after I indicated I was unable to stick with a project I’d discussed with her.

Another friend was describing her husband as “a total J,” a reference to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality inventory that both of us use in our work.

While I’m a big fan of both these inventories and I believe they’re very helpful in providing insights to why we act, feel and prefer the things we do, I get nervous when we start labeling people in a way that precludes any further exploration.

It’s pretty natural to categorize our experiences.  Every day we – consciously or unconsciously – label others:  fat/skinny, smart/dumb, shy/extroverted, efficient/inefficent, etc.  It’s a way for our brains to make sense of, and classify, all the information coming our way.

What worries me, though, is when we lean (rely) too hard on one or two labels to define our experience of others.  It got me thinking of how many ways someone could label me:

  • female
  • blonde (more noticeable after a trip to the hairdresser!)
  • Nissan owner
  • smart
  • funny
  • creative
  • ENFP
  • Quick Start
  • CT resident
  • head of household
  • college-educated
  • tall
  • travel lover
  • Caucasian
  • coach
  • daughter
  • former HR exec
  • childless
  • of German ancestry
  • born in NY…there are tons more.

Taken as a whole package, those labels do help define me, but if you (or I) saw me only as a blonde, or an ENFP, or whatever, you start to lose the nuances that make me, well, me.

How often are we relying on too few labels, or are we too quick to try and define our experience of others?  Let’s promise ourselves to dig deeper and learn more about another person before writing them off or categorizing them in a way that diminishes their value in our eyes.

And, please, let’s start with ourselves.  How are you “self-labeling?”  How are those labels limiting the way you define yourself or describe yourself to others?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

One Comment

  1. I feel boxed in by labels. Growing up church labels kept me feeling trapped. Then political labels. I became a mom and wore that title like a label.

    The truth is I love meeting people who are walking contradictions. A ranching friend of mine wears all pink, even down to her irrigating boots. Her heart is as soft as that color even when she’s riding her horse hard trying to get the herd of cattle gathered.

    I am not a one dimensional person. I like mining the depths of others. Labels help as I dig, but they’re not a stopping point, merely a pin to place on the map.

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