When I was in High School, my teacher failed my efforts at Creative Writing.
I had spent long writing sessions pulling together something that I thought was fantastic. It had action, emotion and violence! Perhaps even Sci-Fi themes, thinking back to what I was reading for fun back then (Hitchhikers Guide and the Triffids come to mind).
For years I thought I was a primarily logic based person. That I wasn’t ‘creative’. And yet in the last 12 months I’ve authored 2 books in my field. #ValuableChange 😉
I know I’m not the only one with this experience. Yet this is something we all do.
We humans lean heavily on psychological shortcuts – in particular the labelling of ourselves and everyone around us. It’s quick and efficient.
‘Go-getters’, ‘addicts’, ‘bludgers’, ‘smart’, ‘funny’, ‘charismatic’, ‘extroverted’, ‘left-brained’, ‘creative’, ‘driven’.
We sort people into mental boxes.
Labels drive not only our perceptions of others but our perceptions of ourselves. We gather small amounts of information and quickly jump to limiting or incorrect conclusions.
The truth is we all operate on spectrums, and we are so rarely at the extremes. These labels often perform us a dis-service.
However the knowledge that we do this means that we can use them to help those around us. As Change Leaders looking to help staff or teams feel a sense of belonging and shared identity – we can use strategic positive labelling to encourage and create desired behaviour in our organisations.
You can strategically create a label that makes sense for your staff to align with (for example, ‘Person X’ is our internal expert on ‘Topic Y’), and then provide public exposure under that very label. No matter the result of the public exposure, these individuals will start to self-identify under that label.
So here’s your call to action for the week:
Try it out. Find a staff member that you think could benefit from a greater sense of belonging – and give them a beneficial label for them to self-identify with.
A word of caution: use this wisely.