You could see the red flush of rage start to rise on the mother's face. "I have never, ever experienced a more defiant, stubborn, selfish child," she said through clenched teeth to her friend.
Washing the dinner dishes for the fifth time that week, her husband was nursing a resentment against his wife's "laziness" in the kitchen, while their son was in his room calling his parents "mean" and "unfair" for requiring that he complete his homework before going out to play.
There's one thing they all agree on: It's the other person's fault.
But there's another thing they're all missing: Every judgment we pass on other people is a revelation about ourselves, an expression of our own needs and values.
For example, the mother may need to look at the rage she felt as a child, when defying her own parents resulted in physical punishment, something she would never do to her own son. The husband may need to work on his assertiveness, asking for more shared responsibility in the kitchen. And the son may need to understand the consequences of the choices he made regarding his homework.
In each case, the judgment itself provided a clue for what needs to be looked at, acknowledged or brought out.
"Can't I just have an opinion, though?" we are tempted to ask.
Of course. But judgment is different from the kinds of opinions that form from assessment or objective appraisals. Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticism, comparisons and diagnoses are all forms of judgment, all ways of saying that another person is "wrong." Other types of judgments:
- Judgments based on beliefs and expectations. "You're 11 now, and you should be able to remember to turn the lights off in your room." ["You're inconsiderate; you're an airhead."]
- Judgments based on fears. "She's cold and distant lately; I think she's getting ready to leave me."
- Judgments based on prejudices and preconceived notions. "Doesn't he have any decency, flirting around with the receptionist like that?"
- Judgments based on generalizations. "Believe me, all bosses are mean."
- Judgments that make us feel better about ourselves. "How could you not know where Brazil is?" ["You're stupid; I'm smart."]
- Judgments that distract us from taking responsibility. "She gets all the parts she wants; she's the director's daughter."
To enjoy the benefits of being nonjudgmental--more effective communication, reduced misunderstandings, enhanced relationships at home and work, and a sense of emotional freedom and safety--try these actions.
- Be aware of where and when you are judging others. This is a necessary first step.
- Practice empathy with a soft heart. What's it like to be the other person?
- Listen and keep an open mind. Learn to make objective evaluations about ideas, people, and situations.
- Be curious. Ask about the circumstances of someone else's life. Most of our assumptions are based on extremely little real information.
- Accept differences. If we can accept each others' choices, and trust in each other to take responsibility for the impact of each choice, then there is so much more freedom for all of us to be ourselves.
- Focus on feelings and needs--your own and those of others. This will take you out of judgment and into aliveness.
For more information or to schedule a complimentary session at the Anger Management Institute,LLC, please call 510.393.0250