How to Make Judgment Work For You

Merriam Webster: Judgment: the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing; careful judgment of the odds

Zen Buddhist thought: My best teachers are my attachments and my judgments. My attachments show me all of my egoic desires and my judgments show me the level of separation that still exists between myself and others.

Common psychological phenomenon: If you spot it, you’ve got it

Good judgment is a much-coveted skill for people in all sorts of jobs, from artists to business leaders. To be able to discern the right, celestial color of blue for a painting of sky, or to choose the best way to approach a difficult problem with a new product idea—this is where our sense of judgment does its best work.

On the other hand, I often meet leaders who are stuck in the habit of judging other people—people who drive them crazy. Discernment might help us sort out whether or not someone is the right mate, best friend, or teacher for us. But often, our judgments instead leave us in a stuck, isolated place. We compare ourselves to others, and when we fall short or surpass them in our own estimation, we lose out on the possibility of making a connection.

We also tend to be most harshly judgmental about those attributes in others that we most hate about ourselves. If you find yourself hating a specific behavior in someone else, take a good long look, and consider the possibility that you may share that trait. In other words—if you spot it in someone else, it’s possible you’ve got it yourself. Either that, or you are working really hard to make sure you don’t have it.

Judging others is a normal human activity, and I don’t encourage leaders to lose their judgment, but instead to simply notice it when they judge and criticize others. When you do that, observe: “oh, there it is again!” and ask yourself what it means. Judgment is a teacher. Is this a part of myself I really don’t like? Is there another reason this bothers me so much, or so often? Then comes the harder part, where we take an emotional step towards that annoying person, and see if there is something about them that is worth appreciating.

My belief is that one can nearly always find something in another person to appreciate, or at least to interest us. And as we allow ourselves that possibility, and get to know that person better, our judgments start to dissipate, and we can better accept ourselves as well as others.

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