Do you like being judged?
Nobody likes when someone else is self-righteous, holier-than-thou, or high-and-mighty to them. Would you be shocked to find you’re judging people — thereby repelling them — without realizing it? Would you want to do something about it?
You probably avoid judgmental people. I’d bet it’s one of the major reasons you avoid the people you do. (Clients often mention their parents here. Even recognizing their parents’ best intents, their being judgmental is repellant.) You’re probably comfortable with nonjudgmental people, or who actively practice nonjudgmental acceptance.
Yet you probably communicate judgment to people without realizing it, mainly in words you choose without realizing it, as I’ll describe below. The good news is you can do something about it, and what you do will improve your life in ways you can’t imagine.
So what are these words? What is this terminology? And what can you do about it?
I can think of two classes of implicit judgmental language. One is praise or apparently benign language, the other is … I can’t even think of a name for it. I’ll describe it below.
Praise and apparently benign language are just that: we praise someone and think we’re being kind. Maybe we are, but we’re still judging. There are two main problems with it.
The first is that you can’t praise without criticizing. Imagine someone does something you like and you praise them: “good job.” They do it again: “good job.” If at some point they do something you don’t like, you’ll realize how you can’t avoid implying “bad job” or worse. If you say “good job” you reinforce them doing something you don’t like. If you say nothing you imply it wasn’t good, revealing you’ve been judging all along. If you say “bad job” you’re judging without even the veneer of praising them.
The second problem is that you’re implicitly implying your values apply to them (aka imposing or meddling). Imposing your values is not a problem for common values you share, but it can be when your values differ. The implicitness can work against you insidiously. The other person may not consciously realize you’re sitting in judgment, but their emotions may flair. They may feel you judging without realizing it. They’ll avoid you without knowing why, meaning you may not be able to do anything about it.
Everyone has different values. If any time someone else’s values differ you risk repelling them, you’ll generate a lot of suspicion and animosity.
Tomorrow I’ll cover the other class of implicit judgmental language. The day after I’ll print some exercises to overcome the habit.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees