A blog article by Margie Warrell, a fellow life coach, on – What your judgements say about you? – got me thinking about my own judgements, my clients’ judgements, and how our judgements affected us, our experience and relationships with others.
In her article, Margie reminds us that our judgements close the door on possibilities; and, in my view, not just possibilities, they also stifle potential.
What are judgements?
In essence they are (often) unconscious decisions against a standard that we make about events, people and things. Beliefs are often built on judgements we have made in the past. Judgements usually result us labelling something or someone as good or bad, right or wrong, worthy or not worthy, better or worse, safe or unsafe etc.
Where do they come from?
Judgements are incredibly useful when time is of the essence and you have to make a decision about a life and death situation. We are well quipped for this from your Neanderthal days. Being able to label and recognise an approaching animal as dangerous/friendly, and based on that judgements being able to take appropriate action was a very valuable skill. Nowadays, judgements are useful in situations such as who to trust and not to trust, who to let into our house, whether something is valuable or not valuable. These kinds of judgements keep us safe and protect us.
And there are those other situations where we tend to pass judgement almost all the time, on others and ourselves, for no real reason. Who has not at times thought on meeting someone, maybe a friend or colleague, “she could lose a few pounds”, or “she must be better than me…”, or “She is only ….”. These kinds of judgements say more about us than the other person we are judging, and they can be limiting for us as well as the other person.
Because, as soon as we judge someone to be a something less or more than we believe they ought to be, we stop being interested or curious about that part of the relationship or the person. We may avoid the person or treat the person in way that might lead to a dissatisfying interaction or limit the potential of the interaction and the relationship.
In judging others we project our own beliefs, standards and criteria onto them. And these beliefs, standards and criteria are also what we judge ourselves against.
Let me give you a recent example: Sarah (name changed for confidentiality), one of my clients, told me about a new colleague, Lena, who came to work in ‘casual’ clothes and not the well coordinated suits with high-heeled shoes most woman wore in the office. Sarah was resentful that Lena was allowed to get away with dressing differently to everyone else. She felt she could not take her seriously and had decided to avoid her. When I probed, it turned out that Sarah was envious of how comfortable Lena seemed in her own skin, how easily she has been accepted and integrated into the team. Sarah felt that she herself would not be accepted if she showed up authentically.
After our session Sarah decided to have a coffee with her colleague to get to know her. She was amazed that Lena was not only very experienced and very friendly, Lena also offered to help Sarah develop in one particular area that she needed for her promotion. Had Sarah stuck with her judgements, she would not have gotten to know this wonderful person, now a good friend, and she would have most likely not been promoted as quickly as she did.
Does Sarah dress differently now? No, she does like her heels and skirt suits, however she realised that there were elements of her work life where she was not being true to herself because she felt she would not be accepted as herself, and was able to make significant and successful.
What opportunities are your judgements shutting down for you?
If this resonated with you, consider noticing your judgements throughout the day. Pick a situation where you remember what the judgements were and use the following questions as a guide. Ideally write your answers in a journal.
- Where do you pass unconscious judgements about others? What do you feel when you do that? And what are those judgements? And, what were your actions based on those judgements?
- What do your judgements reveal about you? What do you believe about life, yourself and others? What are your hidden standards for yourself? How is that judgement impacting you? Is it limiting or enabling? And in what way?
- If you could suspend judgement, how would you act then? What questions might you ask the other person? How might those different actions have impacted the situation or the relationship?
This process also works well with a relationship or a recurring situation that is not working so well for you at the moment. When you meet that person again or the situation recurs, try out the different actions that you came up with in question 3 and notice what is changed.
Feel free to share your stories in comments box.
Enjoy busting your judgements.