So it turns out I’m more judgmental than I realized.
I’d always prided myself on giving people a fair go. (Writing that, I guess I might have a pride issue too!) I didn’t think I came to immediate conclusions about people – that I try to get to know them better before forming an opinion about their character.
I also thought that I didn’t come to conclusions about people based on what other people say about them – that I take the time to get to know them first.
Yeah, apparently that’s not true.
I realized this a couple of days ago while watching the Pando Daily interview below with Mark Pincus. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Zynga – the company that created Farmville, all the other -ville games, Words With Friends, etc.
After watching this interview for a little while, I thought to myself, “Ah, he’s not a jerk after all”.
You see, I’d read various articles about him in the past and they were all pretty much negative. The impression I had was that he was going to be brash and not a particularly pleasant person to listen to. Watching the interview though, he came across as intelligent, thoughtful, caring and many other positive character traits.
It was then that I realized that I’d labelled and pre-judged him based on what other people had said. I’d never met him. I’d never spoken to him. I’d never spent time with him. Yet I’d thought he was a jerk.
This was a scary realization. How many other people have I labelled and pre-judged? How many other people do I think are jerks for unfounded reasons? Taking that further, as a youth worker – how many young people have I labelled? How many youth have I pre-judged?
That’s why labelling young people can be so dangerous. Not only can it lead to self-fulfilling prophecy, but it can change how we view them and thereby how we treat them.
It’s not just our own opinions we need to worry about. When labelling youth, we – deliberately or not – will pass these labels on to other people. When a new volunteer has joined your youth group, have you ever warned them about a certain young person?
“Oh, he never listens”
“Be careful of her – she’s a troublemaker”
“Those two are always causing so much drama”
Whether we mean for it to happen or not, this impacts on how other people view the young people and in turn, how they’ll treat them.
I’ve experienced it from the other side too. I’ve been warned about young people before, but sometimes it seems to have simply been personality clashes with the other youth worker – the youth actually end up being different to how they were described.
I’m therefore going to have to make a more conscious effort not to label youth or pre-judge them, as apparently this is something I might be doing without realizing.
And I don’t want to be the jerk.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa
Question: Have you found yourself labelling young people before? How do you try to prevent yourself from doing this? Let us know in the comments below.
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