Judgment is both a natural tendency and a scourge in that initial judgment is often false and misleading.
Our judgments are typically the result of an emotional reaction to something that’s happened or what someone has done. Because judgments are triggered by emotions they are automatic. In other words, we cannot prevent judgment from occurring.
We can, however, choose how to respond to the judgment. We can either accept it, nurture it or dismiss it. Acceptance means that we don’t question the judgment we made; we assume that the judgment is accurate.
Nurturing the judgment intensifies our belief that the judgment is accurate. We look for ways to support the judgment without ever examining any alternatives to that judgment.
Dismissing a judgment doesn’t mean that we take the opposite position. It means that we realize that nothing is all good or all bad, all right or all wrong. More importantly, dismissing a judgment means that we realize that we don’t know the full impact of what’s happened, and may not know the full impact for years to come. Nor do we know why someone did what they did.
Countless people have felt devastated when they lost jobs only to find work doing something they enjoyed more. Some have experienced and survived severe health issues and found that life has greater meaning and greater joy for them. People who lose a loved one to disease gain purpose and joy in finding ways to effect a cure so that other families can avoid losing a loved one.
I take no pride in telling you how often I’ve ascribed motives to people’s behavior, a form of judgment, only to find later that their motivation was completely different. Judgment is a natural tendency that does not serve us well. Indeed, it’s a scourge upon humanity.
As I’m writing this, I chuckle to myself as I realize that labeling judgment as a scourge is a form of judgment. And it too is false…to some degree.
Judgments that are born of emotional reaction and either accepted or nurtured, without being questioned, often result in misguided actions. The lack of questioning on our part causes us to overlook the reality that we’re operating without complete information. We don’t know what is going to transpire in the future that may make a seemingly good thing become a challenge or a seemingly bad thing to be the launch pad to an incredibly wonderful future.
How often, in retrospect, have we thought “That wasn’t so bad.” or “That didn’t work out as well as I had thought it would.” If you’re like me, you’d have to say “More often than not.” More importantly, how often have we regretted a statement we made or an action we’ve taken when we accepted, or nurtured, a judgment based on an emotional reaction?
Judgment is not a scourge when we dismiss it…when we acknowledge that nothing is all good or all bad, all right or all wrong. The reality is that everything, every situation, every person has advantages and disadvantages. As a result, we are always faced with tradeoffs. We have to choose which advantages outweigh which disadvantages in arriving at a decision that is right for us.
The question is “How do we overcome this natural tendency, which often does not serve us well…that can be and often is a scourge upon humanity?”
What’s worked well for me is to pause at the time an emotional judgment is formed. The pause allows the emotion to subside. Then I remind myself:
- That things are rarely as they appear on the surface.
- The more emotional my reaction [judgment], the less likely it is to be true.
- That when I allow my emotions to subside, I gain greater insights into the advantages and disadvantages of each course of action.
- That objective analysis and well-reasoned choices produce better results.
As I mentioned earlier, you cannot prevent judgments from occurring. You can, however, suspend them. That’s what the pause does. Then, when your mind is no longer in an emotional state, you can more effectively analyze the situation, identify a broader array of potential actions and solutions, and choose more wisely among these alternatives.
For our kids
When you hear your kids commenting that something is good or bad, ask them:
- What might make this “good” thing end up being not so good?
- Under what circumstances might this “bad” thing work to your advantage?
- Is anything really all good or all bad? Or are there tradeoffs in every decision?
These simple questions will enable the kids in your life to discover the fallacy of judgments…that judgments, while a natural tendency, are often false.
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I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your experiences of judging or having been judged in a comment.
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Dale, As usual, I love your topics!
I find that humility is a great balance to keep judgment in tow. When i start to feel judgmental, I ask myself who am I to think that my opinion is more right or wrong than the behavior of the person that I’m thinking of judging.
Like you said, it changes the narrative!
Thak you for your timely and wise articles!
You’re welcome, Bill. Your humility is evidenced in the questions you ask. The tone of your questions is exploratory. You are always cognizant of the fact that your thinking might be flawed. This openness to that possibility is why others trust you so completely and so readily. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.