Avoiding the Damaging Effects of Labeling

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In a LinkedIn discussion group on whether the MBTI® instrument is outdated and irrelevant, the conversation emerged to the point of discussing labeling that happens with most personality tools. The tendency to label others and label themselves as in “I’m a xxxxx, therefore I can’t do….” At the end the person who posted lamented that he had yet to find an organization that fosters deep understanding and went for the short, quick labeling. I decided to share my reply to that post:

I think there several things to consider.

1) We have to vet the tools and the materials for language that holds the models lightly and avoids the labeling effect and select as much as possible ones that do not.

2) We have to watch our own language as we use the tools and materials to keep from labeling. For example…”someone with preferences for” or “Those with a Catalyst temperament tend to….: Avoid absolutes and definites. We are human complex systems so there is nothing that is absolutely predictive.

3) Constantly manage the tendency of our clients to use them as labels. Part of our job is in the contracting up front about how the materials are to be used, how much can be accomplished in how much time, and setting it up so there are champions who get extra training in how to manage the languaging. Most of the workshop participants or the coaching clients will be looking for naming things to better manage them so will keep using them as labels. Some won’t want to name anything and will resist any part of the tool. You can help by addressing the issue up front and enroll them in being the ‘language police’. If that wording doesn’t work find another way to call it out that is fun.

Our job is to help the tools be used effectively and goes beyond just using the tool for identification or information. The need to include all of theses kinds of topics in a certification program has led to my creating a much longer one and to set up an ongoing community of practice. You can’t learn/master all of that is needed to effectively use a tool in a 3-4 day program.

And yes, it is hard to find an organization that fosters deep understanding. I think there are a few emerging through the efforts of the Conscious Capitalism Institute,  Holacracy communities and other organizations like the Presencing Institute.

I hope we can all use these valuable lenses with wisdom.