When to judge

August 15, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Nonjudgment

After three posts on avoiding expressing judgment, I should clarify I don’t suggest never expressing judgment. Here are a few cases where I express judgment.

  • Judging myself: using my criteria to evaluate myself doesn’t deprecate others’ values, for example, writing “I should clarify” above. I do take care to notice my values change, particularly when evaluating myself in the past (see my series Goodbye guilt and blame for more on judging yourself).
  • With clear criteria or goals: when everyone knows the criteria for evaluation, I find no problem in using them. For example, in “Judging people is a good way to antagonize them,” the term good evaluates based on ability to antagonize. The criteria are clear. Someone may disagree on my evaluation, but won’t take it personally. When I sense myself about to express judgment, I’ve developed thinking about my criteria and expressing them as my most common alternative. Doing so raises my awareness and switches my mindset from evaluation to curiosity and sharing.
  • Personal taste, sensation, and emotion: to say something tastes, feels, or smells good, or any other sensation doesn’t involve value. I find people understand such things are personal and don’t feel others are trying to impose their tastes or emotions on them like they do with values. I do note that tastes and emotions are the foundations of value, so it helps to take care.
  • When requested: if someone asks, I’ll oblige. Still, I’ll usually check before expressing judgment that they’re ready for it.
  • Questions: Asking people for their evaluation can help you learn about them. Still, I prefer to ask about their criteria to asking their judgment. For example, looking at art, I find people who say “This piece is good, that piece is bad” less interesting than those who share what the piece means to them and why they like it or not.
  • Unimportant issues: sometimes I don’t have time to think of the perfect way to express something and I’d rather focus on something else. I’ll just say “This painting isn’t good,” move on to one I like, and talk about it. I don’t try to be perfect. I try to enjoy life.

Avoiding dwelling in pedantry, which the last point mentions, complements avoiding the hazards of expressing judgment. But I don’t want to suggest expressing judgment is easier than not. It is if you’re used to it because it comes from an evaluative mindset. You can adopt other mindsets. Practicing avoiding judgmental words gets you to a mindset of curiosity and sharing, where expressing judgment isn’t the default.

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