How Do I Judge Thee, Let Me Count The Ways

Be curious, not judgmental. ~Walk Whitman

We Are All Judges

We all want to be considered accepting and non-judgmental as leaders. But is that really possible? When we meet someone for the first time, or someone walks into the room, we form an opinion or evaluation of them by comparing their existence (how they look and behave) to our existing experiences and principles – we judge.

It happens so quickly that it is impossible for us not to judge. Our brains need to place this person into a recognizable category to determine our response: fight or flight. Though it may seem that those are the only two options in some business meetings these days, the reality is we don’t need to assess the threat, but rather be open to the value this person may bring to the table and honor their individuality.

Doing the Two Step

We may not be able to stop the initial judgment, but as self-aware leaders, we can apply a two step approach before acting upon our judgments.

  • Step 1. Awareness: As yourself what judgments you have made / are making about the person;
  • Step 2. Challenge: Ask yourself for each judgment – ‘Is this true?’

Picture this: your project team has been assigned one of the college interns hired for the summer. In the first meeting, the intern spends the entire time on her iPad instead of watching the presentation.

Your initial thought response: ‘How disrespectful. Those Gen Y kids can’t even stay away from their social media for one meeting!’

Step 1. Awareness: What judgment am I passing about this person?

  • – That she is disrespectful
  • – That she is distracted and not paying attention
  • – That she is using her ipad (or other technology) for personal reasons not related to the meeting

Step 2. Challenge: Is this true?

  • – Unless you can see what she is doing, you do not know. Could it be possible that:
  • – She is taking notes on the ipad, and not being distracted?
  • – She is researching the jargon that is being used in the meeting so she can keep up with the topic?

How can you best determine if your initial judgment is accurate? Suspend your judgment for the moment and approach the person with positive regard to learn more about her.

Coaching challenge

Do the two step (1. awareness; 2. challenge) with each and every person you meet for the next week.

Being non-judgemental does not mean changing your principles, but rather means acknowledging that others can believe differently. These differences are not a problem, they are something to celebrate. They expand our horizons and make life interesting. Tap into the power of diversity in your life of business!


About The Skill Building Series

The anywhere worker is designing, building, and leading the future of anywhere work. There are many skills needed to be successful as an anywhere leader. In this serious, we will meet several virtual / anywhere leaders who have sought coaching. In each session we look at the presenting problem, the desired outcome, and an action plan. Not surprising is the need for these skills in any leader – anywhere.

I may have changed the names (to protect the clients) but the situations presented are very real. Don’t be surprised if you see yourself in any of these scenarios.