Our brain loves them and most of the time we go with it. Labels make it easier for our brain to make the most obnoxious choices without any evidence to support them but the labels and general bias related with those labels.
Categorizing everything is a mostly automatic process for our brain but if on one hand it allow us to decide faster with very little information, it also let us assume with very little evidence.
Everyone have bias, and when labeling others those bias are one of the first things that show up on the labels we use.
There are several problems with labeling people.
The first of those problems is assignment. We assign labels, most of the time, based on our perception of the other people, and perception doesn’t always match with reality. It rarely does, I would even say.
The second problem is that people are not static uni-functional tools/objects. People not only have multiple sides to their personalities, they also change with time as well as with their interactions with other people.
The third problem with labeling people is related with our bias. Our brain takes more attention to anything that confirms what we already believe in than to everything that denies it. And that means that the label we assign to people tend to stick, be very hard to remove or change.
And that also means that we tend to justify a lot more than we should with those labels. “joking around as always”, “do you always have to be so critic”…
But, the real question, I guess, is: Can we avoid labeling people and accept them with all they are? Can we at least avoid the single label?
Maybe it is too hard to you – as it is for everyone else – to not label everyone, but you can at least keep vigilant and when you understand that you did it, try to find other, more appropriate labels for that person – and with that make it a bit more difficult for your automatic brain to classify everything that person says or does as a consequence of that single label.
Can you do that?