Labelling of people, genres and groups – what does it mean and what does it do to people’s behaviour?
Over recent weeks, there’s been a spat of comments in the press (mostly on ABC radio and TV) about “labelling” of people and groups. For example, how are people seen when over a certain age they are labelled as retirees? This has a particular impact on their employment prospects and their potential (lack of opportunity) to pass on years of knowledge that will otherwise be lost.
The press reports around labelling (which is often negative) started with:
- Australian of the Year, David Morrison (whose main issue is equality, particularly in the workplace) raised the issue of labelling both sexes as “Guys” and the potential for discriminatory behaviour towards women who were called “Guys”.
- Then there was the Political Editor for Crikey, Bernard Keene on ABC’s Drum (Friday before last) talking about labelling – talking pointless: how the media enables the vapidity of political PR.
- And finally, my favourite show “Rake” and I quote: Actor Richard Roxburg a.k.a. Clever Greene in the popular ABC series Rake is spruiking about this negativity. In a recent episode where he is trying to console his drug addicted girlfriend he says “Hey, do you notice that everybody in the service industry now is saying ‘not a problem’ instead of ‘you’re welcome’? It does my nut in. I didn’t expect there was going to be a problem. You know I only wanted to pick up a latte – you’re a barista, I’m a barrister. We’re all so attuned to the idea of imminent catastrophe that we need reassurance all the time.”
I phoned into Tony Delroy last night, but was the last caller and had about 15 seconds to discuss the things that happen when retirees (and other generations) are labelled – people automatically build an image which is shared and eventually becomes a quasi-reality, often to the detriment of the group that has been labelled.
Be happy to discuss this further.
author of “Don’t: How using the right words will change your life” http://www.therightwords.co/