When I was 8 years old, my parents got me a button (think the flair that Jennifer Aniston struggled to wear as a waitress in Office Space) that said: I’m not opinionated, I’m just always right.
I kept that button displayed on a bulletin board for many years.
Fast forward to when I was 22 and my then-fiancée, now husband, Rob and I, were in the preparation stages for our wedding. One of the steps toward our marriage in the Catholic church was to meet with a marriage counselor and complete a series of assessments. (You all know how much of a fan of assessments I am.) This particular assessment was the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis (tjta.com). It measures 18 dimensions of personality that are important for interpersonal relationships.
Our appointment with the counselor arrived and he reviewed our assessment results with us. I don’t remember anything from the meeting except for him looking up at one point and saying, “there is going to come a day when one of you is going to say something and the other is going to stop in their tracks because they didn’t think you had that in you.” What he was relating to us was that we both scored very, very high on the judgement scale. He was helping us out because this gave us the awareness that someday, we would comment on a situation, person, or opportunity with such fierce conviction that the other might get rocked.
Rob and I refer to this assessment a lot, mostly because the therapist was right. There have been more situations than we can count during our 16-year marriage when we’ve passed judgment, often shared, around the situation or company we were in.
Lately, I’ve reflected on how judgement can both help and hurt our ability to form meaningful connections. You’ll see from the list below how I’m evolving and where my judgement on judgement lies. Here’s a quick look:
How judgement HELPS with connection:
- Our gut (or judgement) tells us to move along when we should not be investing in a relationship. This saves us the time, heartache, and confusion of spending time with someone who is not meant to be in our life right now. By preventing us from spending time with one person, the judgement opens us up to others on the path.
- We are magnetized by some people and that sense of judgment that “this person is meant to be in my tribe” pulls us closer.
How judgement HURTS our ability to form connections:
- Our conscious bias blinds us to who someone REALLY is. Our judgement story is so resolute that we couldn’t possibly be wrong about this other person.
- When judgement presents itself as binary (I am right, you are wrong), there is no room to move forward in the relationship.
- We think we know exactly what the other person needs and how to solve their problem. Because our judgment is so strong, we spend our time wanting something for this person. When they don’t do as we think they should do, the connection gets weaker. We can’t want something for someone more than they want it themselves.
One of the key principles I learned during coach training is that coaching – and I would argue connecting – needs to be a judgement-free zone. While it’s normal to experience bias – either unconscious or conscious – there is power in letting someone else tell their own story. As you listen to others and find yourself forming a judgement such as “he is wrong”, “here is what I would do”, “how can they be so _____”, see what happens if you try to release the judgement.
When we are blinded by our own judgement, we reduce the opportunity to form a meaningful connection. On the flip side, when we allow ourselves to listen without leaning into the internal dialogue – which more often than not is judgement-filled – we show up differently and increase our chances to form real, meaningful connections.
Where would you rate yourself on the judgement scale? How has it helped you and how has it held you back? What can you do to release the judgment you experience when you are connecting with others?
52 Weeks of Meaningful Connections is offered by Small Town Leadership. If you would like to see how much progress you can make toward making our big world feel like a smaller place, SIGN UP to receive these articles on a weekly basis.