It is easy for us to start dismissing and disliking people. We do it by ascribing labels on behaviours we find upsetting. The problem with labels is that, once placed, we start to be blind to the range of behaviours or state- of-being that lie outside the label's "sphere of influence" (for want of a better word).
Labels can be infectious. Although we tell ourselves that we are going to know the person first before following the label, we are inevitably affected. The moment we see a behaviour that may fit the label, the person's future in our mental schema is set. Perhaps the first step is to acknowledge that labelling occurs as opposed to telling ourselves that we would not be influenced by it.
I am no stranger to this experience, and still very much struggle to see people beyond their labels. However, in my personal experiences, some of my greatest friendships have been made with people whom I had disliked and labelled, but stumbled into accidental ways of knowing different aspects of the person that connected with me.
As I reflected on this accidental turning points in these meaningful and enduring relationships, I thought about possible meaningful relationships I could have made with others who were dismissed by the labels I made of them. How then, can we intentionally make effort towards opening up possibilities for meaningful relationships in life situations where labelling is entrenched?