We talked last week about assessments not being the Truth (with a capital T). The logic behind that concept?

  • People have different standards. Companies, countries and cultures also have different standards.
  • We never have all the facts and observations. Even two people sitting in the same meeting will hear and see different things.
  • We use different words to describe our opinion (aka assessment), and the words are what people agree or disagree with.

In teaching this concept, I generally get head-nods around the logic. It’s when I say “To be most successful (in life) with people, we have to find a way to detach from our judgment of them.” I might carry on with some supporting points, but am usually interrupted with the question:

But, how do I detach from my judgment of another person?”

Tough question. Let’s talk about what I mean by judgmental-ness.

The trouble begins when we think our assessment must be accurate because of our strong belief in our standards. Often, we have  agreement from others. The trouble escalates when we become attached to our point of view. Attachment generally is accompanied by strong emotion. We get stuck in our judgmental feelings, but we think we are wholly logical.

Nice People Are Judgmental

I assert that it’s a human challenge. We are not “bad” because we are judgmental. The questioner above always infers that s/he knows it’s not good to be judgmental, but feels out of control.

It’s the judgmental-ness, the negative attachment to disapproving of the person’s behavior or results, that sends a knot to our stomach. It’s the tendency to assign a property to the person such as “He’s lazy.” or “She just doesn’t get it.” We all know what it feels to be on the other side of a judgmental person.

I have never known a person who is not judgmental. Few declare themselves so because the term has such a negative connotation. Imagine is we simply declared “I seem to be hooked emotionally to my opinion of this person, people, or situation.”

Why Is It So Hard to Detach?

The two core reasons we find detachment difficult are that:

  1. We have spent lots of time investing in the rightness of our standards.
  2. We are fearful of the consequences or impact of the behaviors or results on us (that’s you or me).

Much of our safety and success  is in setting standards that help us produce the results that we want or others request. If you are a manager,  you may set the expectations and you have to “assess” performance. You have to use your judgment. But, do you need to get stuck in an emotion-fueled view?

How Can We Detach?

You can detach from your ‘judgment” of the person and “own” your assessment.  The bad news is that our judgmental-ness is not about the other person–it’s about you/me. The fundamental difficulty is that you have to step back and examine your own attachment in your thinking and feeling. Two questions  to create the space to step back are:

  1. Who am I to determine how someone should be in this work-world?
  2. Can I “own” my expectations and my assessment without making them right?

Then, in that space, quickly move to:

  1. What is in my past, my wiring, from which all this emotion (e.g., anger, upset, frustration) rests?
  2. How does this person’s behavior or results impact my own success, and what am I fearful about?
  3. Is there a possibility that the person is acting consistently with his or her wiring?

You can use this technique with your teenager who declares weekly that “s/he’s never going to be like you” or an “insubordinate or arrogant” employee or a colleague who is “weak or not collaborative” in your work. If you are “hooked” by your emotions, work to understand yourself first.