What Are You?

Why removing labels from our lives is a smart choice.

I was recently on work adventure with one of my co-workers. We went deep into the wild and up into the mountains. Exciting stuff. Who doesn’t love getting out into nature? Well, as long as you have someone else organizing the food and tents and setting up the portable bathroom, right? I know what you are all thinking—this is not camping; it’s more like glamping. Well, save your judgments. We can talk about those in another article.

While preparing for the glamping/camping trip, we had many details to confirm:

  • Clothing to bring. Check!
  • Snacks to have for those late-night hunger pains. Check!
  • Minimize our loads to 5kg. Check!

With all of the logistics out of the way, it was time to talk about one more “important” thing—Two men traveling together and sharing a tent.

“Are we cousins? Friends? What should we tell them?”

It became clear at that moment that my co-worker, who is a very accepting and open individual, suffers from a deep fear of being labeled. 

“Are they a couple?” The question could have been asked. Heaven forbid! 

The example outside of work made me start thinking about the labels we have to deal with inside the workplace. Labels come in many shapes and forms within our workplace. 

“Are you gay?”

“Are you a Trump supporter?”

“What kind of Muslim are you?”

“Where are you REALLY from?”

“Are you a born-again Christian?”

The list can go on. We need to ask ourselves, why are labels so important? What do they achieve? Are they being used to enhance an experience or engagement with someone, or used to place someone into a box or judge someone in someone way?

Different Is Just Different

Let’s be real for a minute. Labels don’t do anything to make your work experience better; in fact, they do the opposite. It gives you a reason to dislike someone, to “other” them and distance yourself for one reason or another. Just because they are “different”!

Here’s a new flash for you. Different is not bad. Different is just different.

So we are not judging others, but we don’t want to be labeled something ourselves. What’s wrong with that? When we have a fear of labels, we also make other people feel as if they are wrong, disgusting or should make some changes. Why would we want to do that to anyone?

When you need to label someone or you have fear, you having some changing to do! 

1. Do you have a phobia of some sort?

2. Are you a racist deep down?

3. Are you judgmental?

Doesn’t sound pretty does it? However, it might be your truth! If you need to label someone for who they are or need to ensure your personal label stays in a particular category, then you might have a phobia, you might be a racist, or you might just be a judgmental person. My advice? Get over yourself and think about how you can change. Face your fears and stereotypes head on! You will see there is nothing to be afraid of. 

Does someone think you are gay? So what! Why should someone be thinking about your bedroom activities? Gross!

Are they reading Trump’s tweets? Many people do!

Someone might be a Muslim! OK! And? There are many diverse and beautiful religions represented around the globe. 

Where are you REALLY from? Helping them fill our their Ancestry.com application form? That would be the only reason you would need to know where someone is from.

That born-again Christian is praying. Good for him or her. Maybe he or she can pray for you and your judgmental ways! 

Engage people as people. Let go of the labels and your fears! Your workplace engagements will be better and more authentic. You also might be happier when you care a little less about what people think about you, or when you no longer have to judge others. Let’s put the labels back where they belong—on our clothing (and even then you can’t trust them. Dang designer sizing!)

Kevin James Saunders is a trainer at Oculus Training Group, a British Columbia-based corporate training and mystery shopping company offering sales management, reservations, sensitivity, and customer service training programs for a variety of service-based industries throughout Canada, the U.S., and the world. For more information, call 888.OCULUS4 or visit www.oculustraining.com. You also can connect with Oculus on Twitter @oculustraining, via e-mail at peoplecare@oculustraining.com or visit it on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.