Labels Divide, Values Conquer

 

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have noticed that when people speak from LABELS (their group identity, their belief system, their affiliation), they are talking from the interests of that label. This can quickly become divisive if that label doesn’t include everyone. If a label is broad enough – like the label “human” –  it can automatically be an ethical and inclusive conversation. But since most labels aren’t that broad, we need to use ethical values to guide us. 

When people speak from VALUES (respect, care, inclusion, sustainability), the conversation more naturally moves to “How can we live out that value?”(all of us, together) instead of “What can we (members of this label) do that is best for us?”

Labels DIVIDE people into groups, and highlight their special nature and interests. 
Values UNITE people, and highlight shared interests and common concerns. 

Labels can be positive. helping us unite people around a common issue, but they need to be used carefully. Why? 

Using LABELS without also using ethical values means that we are probably declaring ourselves special at someone else’s expense.

VALUES help us conquer the human tendency to act in our own best interests. They remind us that we are responsible for more than our own success and that we need to make sure that our impact on others is positive. 

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About Linda Fisher Thornton
Linda Fisher Thornton is Founder and CEO of Leading in Context, and author of the award-winning book 7 Lenses. She teaches as Adjunct Assoc. Prof. for University of Richmond SPCS. She is leading a movement to help leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.

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