There seems to be a lot of name-calling going on, but I want to remind you what our good dad told me one time. Labels are for soup cans. George W. Bush
Recently I have been reflecting on the act of name-calling, which in its best form can still have unintentional negative consequences and in its worst form is an intentional way of attempting to hold power over another person. As a result of this ongoing reflection, I have come to the realization, in general all types of name-calling should be used with extreme caution or not at all.
For my entire career I have had cute pet names for the children with whom I work and for my own daughter. These names have always been playful and meant in a loving way. Often I would use a name that rhymed with the child’s actual name or use terms of endearment such as “sweet pea”, “chug-a-bug”, or ‘babe”. Most children have accepted these nicknames in the way they were meant, but not always and I have taken note.
We are all given a name early in life, and as we develop and have life experiences our name begins to represent who we believe we are. So… when a 3-year-old hears someone, big or small, use a name other then the one they proudly associate with themselves, they can feel hurt or confused. For example although I have always used the term “babe” as a term of endearment – a 3 year old can hear it derogatorily, because they are working very hard not to be a baby anymore. My term of endearment is actually received as a negative message quashing the way the child feels about herself as a developing person. As an early childhood professional, I recognize children are not always able to articulate these feelings, so I have consciously tried to break my nickname habit.
When name-calling becomes intentional and negative, then it begins to become bullying, and abuse. It is one person’s attempt to use the power of their words to degrade someone else and make them feel they are not good enough. When a person, child or adult, is called names like “stupid”, “ugly”, or “fat”, especially if they hear it again and again over time, it will begin to affect their self-worth, confidence and even their overall physical health. Hearing negative comments can cause a person to believe things that are not true and even influence them to make personal changes that are not beneficial. For example, a teen who is repeatedly called “stupid” by other teens may begin to internalize and believe they are stupid affecting their mindset and how they respond to challenges in schoolwork and beyond.
Now let’s think about name calling in terms of professionals working together. As we all know, there are times when our colleagues challenge us with their perspectives or behaviors. When this happens we have choices in how we react. One of those choices is to abandon reason, bow to our emotions and call them a name. This adversarial reaction immediately puts us against them, and is sure to shut down all communication. For some people, especially those who feel threatened, this may be their underlying purpose, but it is not an affective professional practice when collaboration is necessary to get things accomplished.
As I stated in my last blog post Talk Less, Smile More: Civil Discourse http://www.ecconsultingwy.com/?p=151… We are living in a time of divisiveness. More and more often friends, neighbors and family members are finding themselves at odds with each other over their perspectives of how the world should work. In these times we have a choice, we can bow to our emotions and become an insulting, rude name-caller, creating more divisiveness and stopping any potential dialogue or we can come from a place of respect.
My choice is respect.