You can tell a lot about people by observing their labels. No, I’m not talking about the Hilfiger and Nike labels on their shirts, shorts, or shoes; I’m referring to the ones on their cars that might tout some kind of accomplishment.

You can tell a lot about people by observing their labels. No, I’m not talking about the Hilfiger and Nike labels on their shirts, shorts, or shoes; I’m referring to the ones on their cars that might tout some kind of accomplishment.

They are usually stuck on the back window and indicate what organizations people support, how many miles someone ran or biked, whose child is getting good grades and what kind of dog lives in their house. Yep, I saw one that said, “Lab Mom.”

They used to be called bumper stickers because they stuck on the bumper of your car, never to come off again. That didn’t really work out well if you tried to sell a car with a Michigan State Spartans sticker to a Michigan fan.

These new labels can be easily peeled off. Around our office, many people have the “Stay Married for Life” stickers on their back or side windows, showing their commitment to marriage.

The other ways we typically label who we really are is by the way people see us act. This includes how we respond in a crisis, what we do when someone angers us, or how we treat our spouse and family members. Even though we encourage our spouse to talk about their feelings, we show them otherwise when we answer a text message while they’re talking.

How about when we encourage our son or daughter to tell us the truth and promise we won’t get angry and then when they do, we explode? We tell our spouse we love them, but we forget to acknowledge their birthday, barely greet them with a hello or goodbye, or don’t spend any quality time with them.

Words are simply weak if we don’t put some strength behind them by acting out how we feel. It’s funny how we use peel-off labels to try and convey our values on our cars, but we don’t back it up with actions. How many people have you encountered on the highway that display a fish symbol on the back of their car, but then they cut you off in traffic or extend sign language to indicate their displeasure with your driving.

It’s easy to speak words to the people you love, but it’s harder to always remember to show them. Take communication for example. How often do you listen to your spouse versus doing all the talking?  It’s much easier to be the one venting about work, the kids, or what your sister said at the last family gathering, than to hear about your spouse’s day.

When was the last time you sent your spouse a special card in the mail just to brighten their day? Remember how often you did that while you were dating?  When your kids were young, you did a lot of special things to make them smile-animal-shaped pancakes, an ice cream cone on a hot day or maybe a trip to the park. It was all done to show them how much you loved them. It doesn’t have to stop when they get older. Teenagers like pancakes and ice cream. Maybe you won’t get them to go to the park with you, but there are other similar ways to remind them they’re special to you.

Even though they might not sell a car sticker that says “I love my family,” you can create that label by just showing them how much you care.

— Dan Seaborn is the founder of the Zeeland-based group Winning at Home Inc. Email questions or comments to hometeam@winningathome.com.