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Label maker to bridge builder

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

Someone once told me about a blind taste test comparing several expensive wines to a well-known market's much cheaper, yet popular, brand—and that brand won. When it comes to wine it really is a matter of personal taste. It also shows the old adage is still true: you can't judge a book by it's cover.

Too often we assume so much about a person based on their history, current condition, or perceived social status, such as survivor, veteran, a job title, home owner vs renter, college graduate or not, business owner or not to the kind of car one drives by choice or necessity. These labels are simply a point of reference, to give us information about who we're talking to. For example, we refer to ourselves in a community meeting based on a perspective we bring to the discussion: home owner, business owner, parent, etc. But, in life, we don't want to be defined by only that designation. After all, how many labels do you wear? Parent, husband/wife, mother/father, daughter/son, aunt/uncle, high school graduate, college graduate, bowler, painter, reader, gardener, volunteer, artist, musician, designer, ice skater, hockey player, football/baseball fan... You get the idea. Just one of those labels gives us a sense of what's inside but not the whole picture. And if we have a preconceived notion about a label (artists are poor and starving, not a college graduate=not qualified), then we dismiss or treat that person as if they are less than in some way. We tune them out and anything they may have to share by blinding ourselves.

According to an article in The Greater Good Magazine, one solution to all the political polarizing is to discuss the issues without the party or name-calling labels. A recent study found that once we label a person/policy/idea/solution by a differing view, such as republican or democrat, conservative or liberal, conclusions and biases are drawn based on that label and the conversation going forward is affected.

I, for one, and I know many of you, do not want to be lumped into a bunch of beliefs and assumptions because we lean one way or another. We all really are much more complex than that and deserve far more credit for our analyzing, decision-making, and creative thinking skills. But, often, the conversation ends where the label begins without the opportunity to reach a solution along the paths of our commonality. In the image above, both sides need to come together to complete the bridge. We may not always agree on the way to achieve a goal, but we are certainly smart enough to recognize the merits in coming together in openness, compromise, and respect if we ever want to reach those goals. Sometimes, we just get caught up in the protective fluff in between, that need to be right on some point, rather than being willing to discuss all the possibilities through an open, label-less dialog. I have experienced this many times—the brain-storming effect of bringing up all kinds of ideas, regardless of how they sound. It's a remarkable tool for opening creative channels and an opportunity to see each other in a different light that will eventually lead to a solution that works for everyone. Reminds me of another adage: treat others as you want to be treated. Assume even further with empathy, compassion, and respect. You never know what brilliant ideas  you'll discover beyond the label and across the bridge — and those ideas are there just waiting to be seen.

There's more in the article at Greater Good plus some thoughts on perspective, proportional voting, and what others are doing to bridge the divide. =) 

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

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