Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Quick Label

When someone doesn't behave the way we'd like, it is very tempting to attach a quick label to the individual. He's afraid of change. She's a status-seeker. Snake. Coward. Bureaucrat. Manipulator. Has a grudge. Is retaliating.

There are times, of course, when the label is dead-on. As Henry Kissinger famously remarked, even paranoiacs have enemies. But the use of labels can be a lazy person's way to avoid further thought. The other person's conduct may be generated by a belief or event that is far from our radar screen.

By fashioning a quick and dirty explanation for the person's conduct, we indirectly excuse our own conduct and justify our ineffectiveness in dealing with the person. After all, how can a rational person reason with someone who has bad motives, is illogical or is only out for some narrow self-interest?

We may need to think again and adopt another strategy if we want that person to change.

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