The Coach is In…

“If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.” Victor Hugo, Les Miserables


Judging and Judgment – Part II

I can remember a time when disagreements among politicians were civil, even as they were passionate; when there were sufficient politicians who worked hard and effectively at creating compromise. I remember when Senator Ted Kennedy died in August of 2009 that some of his fiercest adversaries said of him that he was the last of the people who could create compromise in the Senate.

Today, we seem to have lost that ability. including the ability to have passionate disagreements and still respect the other person’s right to hold their opinion. It is one of the founding concepts of a Democracy. In business, healthy debate leads to better decisions by broadening the number of possibilities.

If you read Part I, you know that I like the word ‘judge’ as a verb. The word “judge” as a verb means to form an opinion or conclusion about. I like that because how I am using the word in these posts is about ‘forming,’ as in ‘forming an opinion.’ How we ‘judge’ over time tends to evolve based on who are the ‘influencers’ in our life. As we become more independent in our life and our thinking, we form our own sense of how we judge, and what judgments we make and how ‘judgmental’ we are.

From the world of psychology, Brianna West states, “Being judgmental is how we assert authority. It is how we deem what is “good” and what is not. When we are in the position of ‘judge,’ we cannot be in the position of ‘judged.’”

What we know is that we all judge. Initially, about our immediate world, and then beyond. We develop our positive and negative biases. This is natural. I suppose, like other areas of our life, that our pattern of making judgments that are positive and negative continues until that pattern doesn’t serve us well.

My exploration of how we judge and what we judge was born out of an experience that says that we are more judgmental (negative) than we once were. I’m not certain a deep dive into history would bear that out. What do you think?

What is important is our understanding of our own ‘judgmental’ nature. Where does our behavior demonstrate that ‘I am right’ and you are not? Where is our behavior more about tearing down than building up? I’ve known several people in my life that were overly critical of others to build themselves up (“When we are in a position of judge, we cannot be in a position of judged.”). I learned that this behavior said more about those judging than those being judged.

What I see around me as greater polarization may come from greater ego-centric thinking – thinking only of oneself, without regard for the feelings or desires of others; self-centered.

I separated “egocentric” in the previous paragraph into “ego” and “centric” indicating that our ego (a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance; the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity) is at the center. It follows, at least for me, that the health of our ego has much to do with how we judge and the judgments we make. I believe, the more conservative or liberal we become in our views, the narrower our viewpoint becomes. Perhaps that is why our country seems less tolerant. Whether we truly have more people who are liberal or conservative, we seem to have more ‘ultra’s,’ or maybe they are simply more vocal.

As a coach I am trained to help people figure out what is working in their lives and what is not. What I often find is that we have ‘carried around’ our beliefs, values, assumptions for an exceptionally long time. We have become so embedded in how we think and what we do that we don’t remember the origin of our beliefs, values, and assumptions. We are often not aware of how we came to believe what we believe but will ‘fight’ to hold onto those beliefs.

Ego is at the center. Ego is what fuels our feeling of ‘being right.’ Does it serve you, me, us well? I have coached several individuals who had a need to be right. I have witnessed and heard stories of others with the same desire. These are often intelligent, articulate, and passionate about excellence in all areas of their life. They are often not fun to be around when they are ‘pushing’ their ‘rightness.’ They shut down communication, and most often aren’t looking for input unless it agrees with theirs.

They can be quite charming and fun to be around when they aren’t working. They can be people who do things to excess – bigger this, louder that. They like being the center of attention. They can be quite generous, particularly when it serves their needs/wants. They are across the spectrum of egocentrism, often with a large swath of self-centeredness. They won’t move off this space and behavior unless they see greater value in behaving another way. In my experience it is rare that they move extremely far.

On this journey of judging and judgment I have found more questions than answers. I wandered and wondered if where we are now from a polarization perspective is worse than at other times in history; or is this the natural ebb and flow of movement across the spectrum of more conservative or more liberal. My sense is that it is part of the natural flow of things, and the extremes are worse.

I am an optimist. I can find the positive aspect in anything. At times, that optimism looks to find the best in everyone. I can be too trustworthy of others. This journey has given me a chance to own and to see my own judgmental side, and to be saddened by the hatred and violence I see. I want us to be able to listen to one another. To understand that we are well served by diversity. At one time, as a nation of immigrants, we were all about diversity because we all came from somewhere else.

In the end, after all the meandering in writing, and the hours of reflection and contemplation, my hope is that as individuals we will examine our judgments and scrutinize when those judgments are about excluding others, and where they are about including others. We are better served with a mindset of inclusion.

Thanks for your participation in this journey. Be well

To a better you…