Labels have gotten a bad rap in recent years. People don’t want to be labeled because labels can be self-reinforcing, limiting, and hard to shake. For example; if a child is labeled a troublemaker early in school he or she might start living up to that reputation and teachers may start looking for bad behavior. That negative label may limit opportunities because once a reputation is established it can be very hard to change.
So labeling people can be a bad thing, especially when the labels are incorrect. But let’s not toss out the baby with the bathwater. Labels also allow you to quickly identify things, communicate more effectively, and spot influence opportunities you may not have noticed in the past.
Most of language is really labeling for quick identification and ease of communication. Nouns are labels because, according to Dictionary.com, a noun is “a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things ( common noun ), or to name a particular one of these ( proper noun ).”
When I write “Paris” you know what city I’m talking about. The same goes for New York and yet both cities, any city for that matter, is so much more than its name.
Having a strong sense of words allows you to communicate efficiently with other people. We say a word and for the most part we know what each other is talking about which facilitates communication.
For example; a sweet, edible fruit that grows on trees that can be red, yellow or green is an apple. Imagine if every time you went to the store you spouse had so say, “Honey, don’t forget to pick up a dozen of those sweet, edible fruit that grow on trees. Get the green ones.” Much easier to say, “Don’t forget to pick up a dozen green apples.”
Make Labels Work for You
What you need to do is make labels work for you. You can do that in a couple of ways: defense and opportunities.
When I teach people about influence I often say, “Once you learn to define certain principles of influence you’ll be amazed as you start to notice how certain principles are used on you. You’ll understand how the marketer is trying to get you to the store, the salesperson is trying to get you to buy, and how the politician is trying to get you to vote.” Open eyes in this regard allows you to defend yourself if need be.
Then I go on to tell the audience, “On the flip side, you’ll start to see opportunities to begin using the principles to ethically move people to action.” The example I frequently use is buying a new car. It’s amazing how often you see your new car on the road shortly after driving it off the car lot. Your eyes are “open” to something that’s actually been there all along.
The word label has become a label of sorts and has come to have a somewhat negative connotation. Don’t let that be the case for you because it might limit what you notice – good and bad – and limit your opportunities.
To Do This Week
Pay close attention to the labels that are tossed around and question them. As I encouraged you last week, have conversations with people who might be labeled differently than you. Don’t judge, just ask questions to learn about them, their experiences and views. You might be surprised at how you unknowingly fell prey to labels that might be limiting or inaccurate.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet when it comes to the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – has been one of the top 10 selling Amazon books in several insurance categories and cracked the top 50 in sales & selling.
Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses have been viewed by nearly 85,000 people around the world! His newest course – Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities – is now available through LinkedIn Learning.