Don’t take it personally
Have you ever heard about personality types?
I came across a study the other day that showed there are only sixteen types of personalities and how we all are either one or the other.
Something that does not stop to amaze me about us humans is that we constantly try to come up with set models that define us or the world around us, forgetting about the only variable that doesn’t change: continuity.
The world is constantly changing and so are we. There is an element of continuity to life and ‘putting people in boxes’ completely misses the point. As our environment changes our behaviour changes in order to adapt and survive.
As Charles Darwin put it ‘It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.’
I’ll give you an example of this.
When I was about fifteen years old I got introduced to the whole concept of being ‘shy’ or ‘outgoing’ or whatever else. According to the test I was a rather shy person, which at that point sort of resonated with my own experience.
When I told my friends and family about the results I had got from that test they were astonished. According to them there was nothing ‘shy’ about me, as they perceived me as a very ‘outgoing’ person.
Apparently when I took the test I was just considering situations in which I was not surrounded by my friends and family as a context for answering the questions.
What I’m saying here is that I used to act in a more reserved or ‘shy’ way in front of people who I did not know very well and was very ‘outgoing’ in front of people like my friends and family.
My behaviour was (and still is) relative to the context in which I am.
Saying that someone has a ‘dominant’ personality or whatever other kind is to forget about the elements of continuity and relativity present in the environment.
How labels affect perception
Words are anchors. They gives us an idea of what to expect and how to act in a certain situation.
Here’s an example
My friend Daniel is coming for dinner. He’s quite shy but I like him anyway.
My friend Daniel is coming for dinner. He’s quite arrogant but I like him anyway.
My friend Daniel is coming for dinner. He’s quite dominant but I like him anyway.
My friend Daniel is coming for dinner. He’s quite outgoing but I like him anyway.
Do you find any difference in how you feel about the sentences above? Did you notice that the only thing that changed in every sentence was the adjective I used?
Furthermore, do the adjectives I used (shy, outgoing, arrogant and dominant) change your expectations about Daniel?
If you were going to meet him in reality, do you think those descriptions would affect the way you went about treating him.
People are just people and they behave according to the environment they are in, and as that environment changes whether physically or psychologically their behaviour changes to match those new conditions in the environment.
So next time someone labels you be aware that it is only a label and not a reality. On the same token, next time you are going to ‘put someone in a box’ think twice before you do it, as you are now aware of how your words can affect your perception of the world.
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