There is a difference between what actually happens and your interpretation about those events. It is natural and normal for people to observe events and then make inferences, interpretations, judgments, and evaluations about them.
However, many people confuse their interpretations with the facts of the situation. In our leadership training program, our trainers coach participants to begin conversations with the facts – especially when there are problems. The trouble with GLOP’s (General Labeling Of People) is that they always include some guesswork about the other person’s intentions or motives – something that exists only within the other person’s head. As skillful as we may be in our interpretation of another person’s behavior, we simply do not know for certain what causes another person to behave in the way they do.
One danger of this is that we will stay stuck in our interpretations and fail to see more effective ways of communicating. Although, we cannot change past events, we are free to choose how we perceive and interpret events.
Perceptions are subject to influence by everything that we have experienced in our lives – where we were born, where we went to school, what our parents were like, our religion, education, – and tend to create a bias and a particular point of view about the actions of others.
Throughout our leadership training program, our trainers coach participants how to distinguish between what you actually see the other person do or hear them say and how you interpret those actions. This does not mean that your interpretations are wrong or right. It’s just more effective to begin such communication with the facts – what we have actually observed.
• GLOP’s are not “true.” They are guesses about another’s motives or intentions.
• GLOP’s can hurt. People often don’t like being labeled.
• GLOP’s limit our ability to see the whole person. Once we place a person in a category, it becomes more difficult to see their future behavior in any other light. They are stereotypes.
• GLOP’s are contagious. When you use the GLOP, it becomes more likely that others will also.
• GLOP’s are “sticky.” It is sometimes hard for the person to “shake” the stereotype.
• GLOP’s can influence the other’s future behavior. The “self fulfilling prophecy.” People often live up to or down to the label. “If you are going to treat me like a thief, I may as well steal from you.”
• GLOP’s invite defensiveness. They often beg the question, “What do you mean by that?” or “Give me an example.”
So word to the wise, beware of the GLOP!