Label Jars Not People

Label Jars Not People—this is a phrase my parents taught us as children. We even got a family set of T’s made up with the phrase on the chest.

It also reflects one of the basic principles in non-violent communication. The moment we give someone a label, like “You’re stupid” or “You suck at hockey,” we’re judging and criticizing, which Marshall Rosenberg calls evaluation.

The healthier alternative is to practice observing, which involves objectively stating the facts about a situation. The entire premise of Non-Violent Communication is Ahimsa, or kindness, which is the number one priority for us yogis, even above the practice of postures.

Last week, I had the opportunity to harken back to my childhood lesson, when a little visitor made an unkind statement about a family member. After a few minutes of processing, I grabbed a can of chicken soup and invited myself into the party. Here’s what unfolded…

“Hi girls, I’d like to share a story, are you up for it?” I asked.
“Yeah, what’s that?” a rugrat questioned.
“Well this is a can of chicken soup!” I said.
“Can we eat it now?” asked my food loving Italian girl.
“Not just yet, but do you know what this says at the top?”
“It says Wolfgang Puck’s Chicken Soup.” They all laughed hysterically.
“I brought this in because I was told somebody said something that wasn’t so nice about someone else here.”
I waited in silence so accountability could settle in (we become very dangerous when we don’t take responsibility for our behavior).
“Would you agree that cans of food need to be labeled so we know what we’re eating?”
“Yup” they said together.
“Would you agree that when we label people as stupid or strange, it just causes pain, even for the person saying it?”
“Yes” they said with heads bowed.
“Our job every day is to help people feel amazing about themselves, including yourself. When you label or criticize someone, are you achieving that?”
“So we want to be very careful about what we say about others because our words are powerful. And you know what? There’s a bonus! When you’re kind to others, they’re kind back to you and this all adds up to whole lot of friends!”
“I love you and I appreciate you giving me some of your play time.”

We then left the room chanting, clapping and dancing to “Label JARS, not people! Label JARS, not people! Label JARS, not people!”

Join in, it has a nice little rhythm to it!




oh i just looooooove this! well done!