“Hi, my name is Tori, I’ll be your server.”
“Hi Tori, my name is Marvin, and this is Rebecca.”
So began an encounter at a restaurant recently. I wanted Tori to know that I saw her as a person, not simply “your server,” and I wanted Tori to know that we were Marvin and Rebecca, not merely “the customers at table 23.”
Names are important. They take us from being something – a server, a customer – to being human individuals. In a sense, they make us visible. They also make us responsible.
In the e-connected environment, we can post outrageous comments without being responsible for them. “Snuggles123” is free to say things that the person behind the moniker would be hesitant to have associated with her/his name. It does not lead to reasonable discourse.
But while names are valuable, they must be distinguished from labels. Labels allow us to categorize people; to decide without thought whether we agree or disagree with them; whether they are worthy to be our friends and colleagues. When we name someone, we humanize them. When we label them we do just the opposite. And by labeling we can make early assumptions about a person’s ideas. Thus labeling stifles meaningful discussion. Think of some of the following:
Once we attach one of these labels to someone we can decide without hearing what they say whether we agree or disagree with them.
We call it name calling, but it’s not, it’s labeling, and it divides us.
So, more names, fewer labels. We can get along much better.
My name is Marvin Stottlemire, and I approve this post. Heck, I wrote it!
Speaking of names, remember this?