The Indian philosopher Krishnamurti remarked that “the highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe without evaluating.”
So, a few questions:
Are some of the people around you lazy, or do they just do lazy things?
Are some kids you see stupid, or do they just do things differently from you?
Are some of your co-workers uncreative or do they just approach tasks in a way you wouldn’t?
Are some bosses cold and calculating or do they just manage in ways you might not?
Is your spouse or partner too independent or do they just have a different way of viewing a relationship?
Judging as the cause of disconnects
One of the major causes of disconnects and conflict between people – at work, at home, at play and in relationship – is our tendency to not only make observations about their behavior, but to use our observations as the basis make snap judgments about their character.
When we observe someone and instantly label them on the basis of some behavior or other, we move away from seeing the wholeness and totality of that person.
Many of us engage in knee-jerk, judgmental reactions of others who, in some way, appear “different from me.” We are quick not only to point out the “bad-ness” or “wrong-ness” of another but to evaluate who they are based on observations of their behavior, their differences.
So, Peter’s lazy; Dan’s a procrastinator; Julia’s unhealthy; Susan’s angry; Mario’s a narcissist, Jane’s aggressive; Art’s a complainer.
None of these judgments is an (objective, non-judgmental) observation. None of these criticisms points to a simple, objective behavior. All of these are judgments we feel we need to make about a person based on what we have observed.
The next time you find yourself making a knee-jerk reactive judgment, perhaps ask first, “What is that person doing or saying that makes me feel some sense of discomfort (or feel threatened in some way)? And then ask yourself, “Why can’t I seem to just notice their behavior without needing to make a judgment or offer an evaluation?”
In fact, it would be interesting if during your day you could actually discern between your observations and your evaluations. Many can’t, because the habit of observing and judging is so ingrained.
Why we judge rather than observe
When our ego, rather than our heart and soul, is left to do the driving, our GPS is based on looking at the landscape from a like/dislike, right/wrong, or good/bad perspective. Built into this mode of reacting, is an evaluative process based on ego-based emotions, feelings, character, qualities, and styles, etc.
So the more someone is “not like me,” the more we feel a tendency to push away from them. All of this is based on our need, often unconscious, to “be right.” When someone behaves – in thought, word or deed – in a way that does not sync up with what we feel is right, we feel challenged or threatened. And when we feel challenged or threatened, we feel the need to defend our beliefs, our “rightness.” In doing so, we’re looking to support our psycho-emotional safety and security with a singular focus on “who I am.”
Making judgments about others is how we defend our self. If we can make them “bad” or “wrong,” then we’re right or good. This dynamic is also the underlying foundation of bias and prejudice. And for many, this dynamic is characteristic of living in a world of duality – good vs. bad; right vs. wrong; intelligent vs. stupid, etc.
Moving beyond duality
The way we move beyond this dualistic tendency is to suspend judgment – to observe without evaluating. When we transcend our ego and come from a place of presence – simply observing – we can start to see the essence of another individual.
From this place, we can suspend what we like and dislike and allow our soul to look at the truth (not ego-based subjective “truth”) – a deeper and intuitive sense of another person based on respect, tolerance and understanding, rather than judgement.
And when we’re open and accepting of others, we start to find that we are similar; we are able to accept their personalities without discomfort, resistance, resentment, or difficulty – as we’re relating on a level where love and understanding, acceptance and inclusivity, tolerance and appreciation fill the space between us. Rather than making judgments, we acknowledge other points of view and respond with a “hmmm, that’s interesting” and move on without reacting.
Not by 9:00 tomorrow morning
Being able to accept and understand like this isn’t something that happens overnight, especially for those of us who have a deeply-ingrained tendency towards making judgments about others.
But there are behaviors we can focus on and develop to help us to accept others who push our buttons: patience, understanding, appreciating differences, recognizing the essential nature of others, and being empathetic, being open to, and valuing and allowing the uniqueness of, others.
When we focus on these behaviors, like and dislike stop being part of the relationship equation. Gradually, they will be replaced by compassion, empathy, acceptance and understanding.
Some questions for self-reflection:
- Do you know the difference between an observation and a judgment?
- Are you quick to judge? What would your friends, co-workers, or spouse/partner say? How so?
- What do you “get” by being judgmental?
- Do you blame others for much of your discomfort?
- Do you become defensive in some way when you encounter people who push your buttons?
- When you were growing up, were your parents, primary caregivers or others judgmental? How so?
- Can you envision a world where people can observe one another without evaluating or judging?
- What is your most recent experience of being judgmental? Of being judged?
- Do you consider yourself to be an empathetic person? How so?
- Do you spend lots of time ruminating about other’s behaviors? If so, why?
- Are you someone who “takes things personally?” If so, where and when did you first notice you did this?
- Do you tend to gravitate towards “people like me?”
- To what degree do you give people “the benefit of the doubt?”
(c) 2020, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a (virtual) bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.
What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”
I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.
I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
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