Labeling Theory

piano-ology-emotional-preparation-labeling-theory-featured-image-by-tayeb-mezahdia-from-pixabay Image by Tayeb Mezahdia from Pixabay

It’s a huge mistake to define “talent” only in terms of performance rather than potential

A mistake to define “talent” only in terms of inherited predispositions rather than the capacity to learn

to define “talent” only in terms of narrowly-defined capabilities rather than a view of the whole person. What, for example, is the fruit of categorizing people based on an IQ test?

to define “talent” only in terms of observable skills rather than character traits. Why are curiosity, enthusiasm, industry, sensitivity, passion, empathy, discipline, courage, perseverance, honesty, kindness, compassion, and optimism not considered talents?

to use the word “talent” to discount or diminish the hard-won accomplishments of successful people.

and to use one’s supposed lack of “talent” as a crutch in order to justify one’s lack of accomplishment.

Furthermore, making this mistake has crucial implications per the power of self-fulfilling prophecy.

On the one hand, those labeled “untalented” may believe that effort is pointless and give up before even trying. They may believe that they are not special and therefore not worthy of doing important things. Even worse, they may believe they are not special and therefore not responsible for doing important things.

On the other hand, even those labeled “talented” and who are accorded special attention and opportunities are in danger. Because those who are rewarded for their “talents” may adapt their behavior to maintain such rewards–a dependency on extrinsic motivation that is unsustainable and not typically in their interest. Furthermore, being labeled “talented” may make one a slave to one’s gifts–by instilling expectations that lead to unhealthy perfectionism and competition. Finally, believing that things should come easily to them may lead to depression and despair as even “the biggest talents” discover their limitations.

Furthermore, “giftedness” often masks “disabilities” as “disabilities” often mask “giftedness”.

As you can see, labeling people as “talented” (or not) has profound implications for everyone.

Performance is easy to see, but seeing potential takes love and commitment. Perhaps that is why “talent” seems so rare. The reality is that most talents, however big or small, are latent– waiting to be discovered and nurtured given the opportunity and right kind of support.

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