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April 1, 2022

How to Stop being a “Label-Maker” & have Real, Authentic Conversations.

 

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Do people just not “go there” anymore?

You know, the seemingly endless pause before they respond to a statement, story, or question presented to them. The kind of response that has truly been marinated in oneself first, closely absorbed, and considered. Instead, everyone seems to be on the edge of their seat, holding their breath, and anxiously waiting to shoot back at their opponent with a “one-up” or “I know! Let me tell you all about that…”

I might be the only one—at least, it feels like it at times—but I miss having deep and meaningful conversations about anything and everything regarding life without having to censor myself in accordance with my audience. It’s exhausting! It is uncomfortable and feels inauthentic because I can’t be myself or truly state how I feel about something out of “fear” it will be used against me right then or at some point down the road.

As a society, we obsess about topics that are “hot” in the media, but do people truly research the subject matter at hand, or do they just take what was presented to them and “run with it” to then share their own perspective based on one provided statement by a newscaster?

I know—that’s the easy way out for most. I mean, why bother looking more into it or learning more about it if you can just watch two separate channels and then combine them to state your perspective? But is it really yours? Or did you just pick a side that vibes with your opinion and decide to stand behind that?

We all do this in some shape or form, myself included. This is called confirmation bias. I despise it, actually, because it brings out the worst in people. We see confirmation in everything to support our perspective, only to try to prove others wrong versus actually learning something or understanding a different opinion. But is this a result of laziness or merely a consequence of censorship within the group of people we find ourselves in? We aim to please, after all. And nobody wants to be the “odd” one out or worse or become a target.

Censorship can potentially be so restrictive that having an honest and open conversation with known or unknown people prevent us from having meaningful and informative exchanges or active and engaging learning opportunities. Instead, we tell each other what we think the other person wants to hear in order to not come across as offensive or incompetent.

An “easy” way to break down barriers or walls built by assumptions and labeling is to stop taking the temperature of public opinion and see the person in front of us—really see them and ask questions.

We often don’t like being questioned, because it can feel like an interrogation rather than satisfying one’s curiosity. Instead, we feel challenged by our ideals rather than viewing them as the path to awareness, to open-mindedness, and to critical thinking. Nobody expects (I hope) to have their mind changed, but maybe they can adjust their thinking?

Society seems to go in the direction of “groupthink” and when we continue to approach that direction when we close ourselves off to other perspectives, it can become a dangerous thing. Having conversations and hearing the opinions of others and why they are thinking and believing whatever they think, provide us with the opportunity to become independent thinkers.

There is nothing wrong with having a different opinion. After all, our own opinions are (hopefully) based on personal experiences, encounters, exchanges, and observations. That is why every one of us is unique—and isn’t that what we truly want? To be accepted for who we are at the core? That doesn’t mean we cannot adjust our thinking, but being closed off and only restating why another person is wrong has never changed another person’s mind, has it?

Let’s go back to “old-fashioned,” face-to-face conversations—because everyone can be a keyboard cowboy, but most likely we would not actually speak the words we are typing out loud. Would you?

When we self-censor, we become inauthentic. And a society filled with inauthentic people is the equivalent of portraying perfection at every corner, while a lot of us are miserable and paranoid to be “found out” as dishonest and fake. It’s like we are hiding from our true selves.

I encourage all of us, myself included, to start and continue to ask questions. The better the questions, the better the answers. The better the answers, the better information is provided. The better the information, the better choices we can all make by creating a 360-perspective on any given subject.

You don’t have to agree, but you should at least be able to confirm with yourself why you believe what you believe. Living in an everlasting echo chamber is not helpful or beneficial to anyone. Diversity on every level is created by different viewpoints—it’s a key component to evolving and making progress.

Stop being a “label-maker” and instead become a collector of stories. The world needs more positive mentors and people to look up to and actually become one of them. Can you imagine the potential you can create in yourself and others?

 

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