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Judging is inevitable. You choose if you communicate it.

posted by Joshua on May 19, 2014 in Evolutionary Psychology, Tips
4 responses

Nobody likes feeling judged when they didn’t ask for it. We like people to support us. We know others don’t like feeling judged either.

Yet we all feel like we judge others. When someone walks into a room we judge what they wear, whom they’re with, how they act, and so on. When we walk into a room we decide who we consider worth talking to and who doesn’t. When we watch presentations we evaluate the person, their ideas, and how they present them.

(Sometimes we ask for judgment, but I suggest you’ll achieve whatever your goal in asking for judgment better by asking for advice, a la Feedforward.)

How do we get around that we don’t like feeling judged but we can’t help judging?

The answer how we communicate our judgment. That you judge is inevitable, I believe. How you communicate it is your choice.

First, I don’t feel bad about it. I believe that as a social species, our ancestors evolved ways to create and enforce social hierarchies, as well as to find ways to place ourselves in them. I suspect hierarchies enabled teamwork among larger groups that helped them survive better than peers without. The emotion of judgment and the behavior it motivates seems to achieve these goals. In this sense, I consider the feeling of judging others inevitable, so no reason to kick myself or feel bad. It’s like feeling hungry or thirsty.

Next, I think about my goals with the other person and how I feel when someone judges me or how I see people react to judgment. When people condemn me, or often even if they praise me, I often don’t appreciate their believing they have the place to judge me. Some people like feeling praised, but communicating to someone you like their praise invites either future judgment, which might bring future condemnation, or only future praise, which biases them. People tend to respond to judgment not by accepting the judgment but by rejecting the person judging and their criteria—often the opposite effect of the person judging.

So I choose to communicate judgment by the effect of what I communicate. If I want to alienate someone and polarize them against me, I’ll communicate my judgment. If I want to help them and have them like me, I’ll usually choose other options, usually silence or, if I want to help, motivating them to ask me for help. I generally try to avoid giving help to people who haven’t asked for it.

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4 responses on “Judging is inevitable. You choose if you communicate it.

  1. Please forgive that I might not make much of a statement but I’m just wanting to share a paragraph from a translation of “Discourse on Method” by Rene Decarte (translation by John Veitch, pg 5)

    “My present design, then, is not to teach method which each ought to follow for the right conduct of his reason, but solely to describe the way in which I have endeavored to conduct my own. They who set themselves to give precepts must of course regard themselves as possessed of greater skill than those to whom they prescribe; and if they err in the slightest particular, they subject themselves to censure. But as this tract is put forth merely as a history, or if you will, as a tale, in which, amid some examples worthy of imitation, there will be found, perhaps, as many more which it were advisable not to follow, I hope it will prove useful to some without being hurtful to any, and that my openness will find some favor with all.”

  2. For the sake of validity (and being sound) I like to interchange different related words to parse out where I might go wrong in communicating. For example, someone recently sent me an email and it went something like this, “I don’t mean to judge you, but (negatively judgmental words that were not accurate). Had this person said, “I don’t mean to understand you, but ….” I think their statement would obviously have made no sense. Except that (especially now looking back) I think this person was thoughtfully making a thoughtless statement to me. Also, I’m not saying that judgments can’t not and should not be made of me. I have discovered and looked to websites like yours for a kind of judgment. For feedback and constructive criticism.

    The thing is it makes sense to me to say that when you judge something or someone, you understand it/them. To understand, it is almost slightly synonymous to me (with judging), but I even think it comes a half or quarter step before.

    • I wish people spent as much time trying to understand and make the other person feel understood as they do communicating judgment, or even realizing when they do it.

      That’s one of my reasons for liking my exercise on avoiding judgmental language so much. It forces me to listen and think, not just respond and impose my values on others.

      I also like that you specified “negatively judgmental words,” since positively judgmental words are just as judgmental.

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