Labels, Meanings, and Reality

As I look for something to write about I stumbled upon a film I really like. The film showed applications of interpersonal communication theories. The film is called The Blind Side and here is how it goes:

A pure act of kindness is what started the story of Michael Oher and the Tuohy family. On their way home, Leigh Anne saw the shivering Michael walking on the road. She discovers that he plans to sleep in the closed gym; Leigh Anne offers him a place to stay for the night. She thought that is the right thing to do and she does it. This leads to spending Thanksgiving with Michael and other events that eventually makes him a part of the Tuohy family.

Michael grew up in a troubled neighborhood. His mother was a drug addict and his father left when he was only a week old. He spent his childhood moving from one foster family to another. He settles with the family and runaways afterwards. Michael did this over and over again. This influenced how Michael sees himself and the society he lives in. The society as well sees him differently judging on what they see on the outside and his pressing life situation. While he was growing and even up to the time that he was studying in the Christian school, Michael was thought of as stupid, uneducated and scruffy. Few people believe in him, that is why he did not believe in himself as well. People are not born with the concept of “self”. The “self” arises thought our interactions with other people. This is one facet where symbolic interactionism is observed. He was labeled as “Big Mike”, a name that Michael did not want to be called. This name prevented people from seeing who he really was. All they saw was his “big” size. He was called many names including “stupid”, “black”, “one of the charities”, and many more. When one of his teachers read what he had written and realized that he was not stupid, they started to understand him and gave considerations that he earned and deserved. Labeling applies not only in humans and things but in all situations we encounter because only when something is labeled properly that it can be understood properly. As an effect, the negative self that Michael thought of himself disappear gradually as the people around him grew understanding of who he truly was.

During one of Leigh Anne’s tea time, her posh companions wondered why she took Michael in. They only saw Michael as a “charity work” and a possible threat to her family especially to Collins. However, to the Tuohys, Michael was more than that. He was a son to and a sibling. Leigh Anne had a new found courage because of Michael. The family learned that even without biological ties they are still a family. Michael and the Tuohys became the thriving force of each other. The small things that they seemed to forget like bedtime storytelling, eating in the dining table, and such were brought back to them by Michael. As Sean said, Leigh Anne and Michael are both like onions. They helped each other peel each layer and open up to each other thus establishing a better relationship either the people around them.

Two sides of Michael were shown. The first was before he met the Tuohys. Michael was quiet and somewhat antisocial. He reacted that way towards the “white” people because he believed that we did not belong and that he was different. He was trying to fit in and was barely succeeding. He wanted to make friends but people stir away from him. He, then and there, kept his distance too. The other side of Michael was seen when he was becoming and already is a part of the Tuohy family. The cheerful and funny Michael came out. At first, he was scared and unsure but little by little he opened up to the family. Just like Leigh Anne, Michael was also an onion. It took time before he fully opened himself to Leigh Anne. Family is very important to him whether it is his biological family or the Tuohys. He is very protective of them. He does not trust men easily because he believes that they will just pretend to care until that time that leaves you. He had a deep understanding and belief about courage and honor. Courage, Michael thought, was easy. He is brave and strong. He is able to survive years in the troubled neighborhood and he is fearless in the football field. Nevertheless, true courage, as he said, requires honor. One must have honor to be able to recognize the right path and courage to act upon it.

The events in Michael’s life happened because he and the people around him responded based on the reality they have created though their shared and personal meanings. Only through his or her experiences that one makes meanings. It is a reminder that the meanings we fashion are important not only to us but the people around us as. Without others, one cannot be fully someone.

Dog Days are Over*: How to Stop Being a Poor Performer

Are you a poor performer?

Everything you do boils down to how you perform. Good performers are efficient and productive. They get the job done and produce results quickly. Poor performers, on the other hand, are constant complainers. They make lots of excuses and are unreliable.

In many cases, be it in your school or in the organization you belong to, there are individuals who aren’t performing and delivering what is expected of them.  An example would be the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” where Andy Sachs, portrayed by Anne Hathaway, lands a job as an assistant to the infamous yet powerful fashion magazine editor named Miranda Priestly.  In the beginning of the movie, Andy would probably be pegged as a poor performer. While she has the brains and diligence for the job, she has zero background about the fashion industry and has no clue with what her boss and job expect of her. She struggles with her tasks and industry jargons she doesn’t understand. Ultimately, her cluelessness slows her and her co-workers’ work.

This can be said about poor performers in various settings.  Poor performance greatly affects how you are perceived. Overall it places a strain on the relationship with whomever you are working with. To avoid these and get you back on track, here are some ways that can help you get out of the pit that you’re in:

Seek specific and immediate feedback
When you do something, make sure that you ask for a feedback. This will help you in assessing your work. The gap between your performance and what is expected of you will be explained. Ask for your strong and weak points. Through this, you will be able to validate yourself and be directed to what you should be doing to achieve your goals.

Confirm that you are in the same page as others
Make sure that you understand everything and everyone that concerns your work. Miscommunication with the people you work with may lead to more problems rather than results.

Do an upgrade
Sometimes, all you need is guidance to improve your work. Don’t just bank on your current knowledge and skills. To improve and to do much more, you have to grow and learn new things. Read and read. Enrol yourself to training programs and attend various seminars that would aid you in your development. I’m sure there is a lot out there. You just have to look and participate.

Keep track of you work
Document your work. This will help you monitor if you are progressing with your performance. Take notes during discussions or when you are given instructions; this way, you will not miss or forget important details of your work. Your notes can also serve as reference–your dos and don’ts–in your future works.

Self-awareness is the key
Generally, people don’t notice a lot of things about their own performance. We tend overestimate our abilities even if in reality we’re just okay or we’re not really performing well. Being self-aware will help you boost your ability to monitor your own skill-development and check the status of your performance so you can adjust accordingly.

Find a motivation
One factor that affects your performance is your desire and commitment towards your work. If you find something in your work that makes you happy, focus on it so that you’ll create a motivating environment. As they say, “Make your passion your job so you never have to work a day in your life.”

Go and ask for help
If nothing works, there is no harm in asking for help. There are people who are willing to help you. Know the no one is great in the beginning. Hard work and continuous self-development can be done especially when there are people to support you. Now that you’ve read these tips, it’s time to make sure that the dog days are over and be the good performer that you are.

* Excuse the reference to the Florence and the Machine song. Quite fond of the Pentatonix version. ♥
References:
8 Rules for Dealing with Employees Who Are Bringing Your Company Down 
Unskilled and Unaware of it (Article #147 – Written by Alan Bellows)
How to Deal With Poor Employee Performance
Can You Really Help Poor Performers