Recently, I attended an interesting presentation by Dr. Antoinette Izzo. The presentation was based on findings from an anthropological study she is running with the help of UNLV. She found four strong themes in how we label ourselves.
How we label our self, or others, comes from the intersection of:
- Our Philosophical Values
- Our Ideological Values
- Our Identity View
- The Practice We Observe
Antoinette confided that this was her first delivery of her presentation, so I am going to take some liberty with what she said (she has not formally submitted any papers on the work yet). I hope that this comes close to the mark.
Our philosophical values are the foundational beliefs we hold that are to some degree changeable through exploration. Our ideological values are foundational beliefs that are embedded and harder to change. When it comes to love my philosophy is love is lack of ego about another’s actions or state. Ideologically, this brings me to believe feelings are always okay, actions range from good to bad.
Because I identify as a dad, a husband, and a silly person, I strive to take actions that display love for my wife and child (soon to be children). But, sometimes being funny/silly on my end leads to discomfort/pain on their end. In these moments my actions of love become really important. These actions include things like:
- Don’t use words that deny feelings
- Listen actively when my loved ones speak to me
- Create space for for them think about their feelings
- Give time to think
- Don’t ask them to feel differently
- Focus on actions, not perceived motivation
- Acknowledge that disagreements can’t be won
When I label myself, or others, I am trying to describe their actions in relation to my philosophies, ideologies, and existing identity categories. Sometimes this means there will be conflict between what I mean and they understand from my words.
That is a tense moment–I suggest dealing with it by saying some form of, “What does that mean to you?” When someone is hurt by something you say you have most likely attacked one of their beliefs. There is little way to tell which one, though.
Taking responsibility for how your actions affected them is really the least you can do to diffuse the situation. Showing that you care, even before you understand, shows good faith in the process, even if the problem can’t be solved immediately.