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.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book