Are you being judgmental without realizing?, part IV

May 14, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog, Tips

Following up my previous post in this thread, I forgot a few judgmental words and some tips on avoiding sounding judgmental.

The judgmental words see frequent usage:

  • Should
  • Ought to
  • Impressed

A friend once said “there are very few shoulds in life.” I found his observation helpful. I have found avoiding telling people what they should or shouldn’t do helpful.

When you say someone should do something they aren’t doing, you’re advising them based on your values. If they asked for your advice, you’re probably helping them. If you haven’t, you’re probably judging.

On to the tips. In the first exercise of the last post, I offered alternatives to judgmental language. Here is some clarification.

Many (most?) of the time someone says something is right or wrong, they mean they agree. Stating someone is right or wrong implies you have absolute knowledge. Worse to your credibility and ability to influence and persuade, it opens you to disagreement and debate.

If instead you state you agree or disagree you communicate the same support for the other person’s statement, but you neither evaluate them nor open yourself for debate.

Likewise, when someone says something is good or bad, they usually mean it’s good or bad for them. As with rightness and wrongness, implying you know goodness and badness implies absolute knowledge, is evaluative, and opens you up to debate, all of which hurt your credibility and ability to influence. Goodness and badness only have meaning with respect to a system with a purpose or function. If others buy into that system and its function or purpose, no problem. If they don’t, they’ll disagree with your evaluation and question your basis (if you’re lucky. They may just think you’re crazy).

You have a few alternatives to saying something is good or bad.

First, qualifying that something is good or bad for you or for a specific goal clarifies the basis of evaluation that others understand, avoiding many of the problems above.

Second, saying it helps or hurts also clarifies you are talking about the effect of the thing, not evaluating it — people can disagree with your projection, which is easier to discuss than evaluations of good and bad.

Third, saying you like or don’t like something also communicates your evaluation, but in terms no one can argue with: your emotional reaction. Nearly everyone agrees you have every right to your emotions.

So the tips are to change talking about rightness and wrongness (and similar terms) to agreement and disagreement (and similar terms) and goodness and badness (and similar terms) to one of the three alternatives above (or similar things).

Personally I find these changes result in more accurate communication, less disagreement, more constructive conversations, people liking me more, and being more persuasive — better at winning friends and influencing people.

There is little more repellent than being judgmental and little more attractive than non-judgmental acceptance or even celebration. People like to be with and open up to people who non-judgmentally accept them.

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1 response to “Are you being judgmental without realizing?, part IV

  1. Pingback: Are you being judgmental without realizing?, part III » Joshua Spodek

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