Why are we still so quick to label and judge people?!

As a society we are still too quick to label people and judge others. As discussed in the last post on judgement, this can lead to missed opportunities for learning, development and discovery. The worst part of this is that it is all completely avoidable. Humans are not robots made the same way in the same factory, but we are all individuals. In our own way, we are all unique but when we come together and share our experiences and knowledge, the world becomes a much richer place. We must, however, set aside our judgements and preconceptions in order to approach people with an open mind if this is to happen.

Recently, while re-reading 2 excellent novels, it dawned on me that there is one paricular group of people who have so much to offer but are being held back by the labels, judgements and limitations which society places on them.

The two novels in question are The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, and The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes. While the stories and settings are very different, both novels are narrated by teenage boys on the Autism Spectrum and provide a fascinating insight into how they both make sense of the world. In The Eagle Tree, the narrator March Wong is described as being autistic, but in The Curious Incident it isn’t clearly stated. There is no label attached to Christopher John Francis Boone in the latter, but it is hinted that this may be Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism. Christopher, though, just describes himself as “a mathematician with some behavioural difficulties”.

I won’t bore you with my attempt at a book review, as there are already a number of excellent reviews available online, but I would rather share with you what I came to realise through these novels. Both novels, while raising awareness of what life is like on the Autism Spectrum, primarily deal with perception and how we view the world and the people in it. March Wong and Christopher Boone are both very gifted, highly skilled and intelligent teenage boys, with an incredible amount of self-awareness. Reading both novels, I couldn’t help but wonder just how much each of the boys would have to offer in the real world, and whether they would be given a chance.

Of course, the novels are fictional, but the issues and questions which they raise are very real and relevant. The stories of Christopher and March show us the dangers of labelling and judging people. In the real world, we don’t get the same insight into a person’s thoughts and feelings that we do when we read a novel. I have yet to meet anybody who walks around narrating their daily life out loud. The only way we get to know, and better understand other people is through communicating with them and understanding them.

Herein lies the problem. Instead of approaching all others with an open mind as to where an interaction may lead, we are still too quick to label and judge other people before deciding whether to speak to them. People are labelled throughout their lives, particularly at school. These labels which are placed on them, and the ones which they choose for themselves, have a lasting impact. How many people have the potential to really make a chance in business or philanthropy, but instead find themselves held back by the labels and judgements placed on them?!

Each and every one of us is the same, and by same I mean human. A person’s mind and their view of the world is shaped by the influences that they are exposed to early in life, and the influences which they choose later in life. Some people, however  view and experience the world differently and they should be embraced rather than marginalised. By approaching all people with the same open mind, tolerance and understanding we can gain perspective and so much more.

We all have unique personalities, but unfortunately some of us get labelled, judged and cast aside. This just begs the question, why not celebrate the individual and the unique and varied gifts, talents, abilities, skills and views which they have? There is an incredible amount which we can learn from each other, if we only embrace others rather than label or judge.

Simply put, our attitudes and perceptions need to change. Rather than label another person and jump to preconceived notions or conclusions, treat them instead with empathy and try to understand them. Just because somebody experiences and views the world differently to you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from each other, and help each other. Who knows where life may lead you when you approach other people with an open mind?!

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