So far, it seems that every time it pops up, the person weilding the word wants to win the argument, not based on logic and reason, but based on "you are being 'judgmental' therefore I am right and you are wrong."
I hear "you shouldn't judge people." What the hell? How can we grow without judging people? How can we communicate? How can we choose who to live with? Some people might be cool living in an income sharing community with a bunch of drug addicts, but I'm going to use judgment to steer clear of that situation.
I do think that people leap to an errant conclusion about me and I feel that they have used poor judgment. There are a lot of details that they are not aware of. I can see the temptation to blurt out "you shouldn't judge people" but based on their limited information, their judgment is not so bad.
So, either there is a great deal I don't understand, or I think the phrase "you shouldn't judge people" is nothing more than a cheap attempt to get your way when you have nothing better to support your cause. Therefore, embedded in the message is "I think you are stupid enough to fall for this."
Though I have some points of clarity with judging that are important to me.
One might judge a person's actions.
One might judge a person's judgment (decision) or thought process(es).
One might judge a person.
If I see someone doing something I think is stupid, I have judged their actions and thought processes, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm judging them as a person. I do stupid things all the time. (Dang it any way!)
If I see someone doing things I would never choose to do, I definitely have judgment around why I would never do that, but again, it doesn't mean I'm judging the person. They have a different point of view which is what keeps life interesting.
In my world, I do my best to reserve judging the person until it is utterly demonstrated that this person isn't just stupid (uneducated), but is totally ignorant (unable or unwilling to be educated). Until I am convinced of ignorance (or an ignoramus), I see the actions and decisions as sometimes misguided, but the person is still respectable and decent.
But more than observing that (sigh) someone seems to be pulling out this old manipulation term again, I'd actually rather get to the heart of the matter and, ideally, hope that all parties to the discussion can actually understand what each person really means and really wants.
So sometimes I introduce the the term 'discerning' into a conversation. I say something like, "Well, if so-and-so thinks that to distinguish between choices and choose one, or to notice that something (or someone) seems 'off,' is 'judgmental,' and by that they mean condemning or judging unfairly or prejudicially, please consider the term 'discerning' instead. We need to be discerning when we make decisions in community, when we determine what's best for the whole group over time (re its mission & purpose), and when we determine who seems like a good fit as a new incoming member and who may not seem like a good fit. So if you think that by thinking about and assessing these matters we're being judgmental, by all means let's use a word that says more clearly what we're doing: we're trying to discern, distinguish, understand, be clear, and make good decisions. Aren't we?"
I suspect that people who become emotionally charged and label others as "judgmental" are afraid that they themselves will be criticized and their immediate knee-jerk reaction is a kind of peremptory defense. But I could certainly be wrong; it's only a working hypothesis.
And is my being annoyed at the use of the word "judgmental' being used to put someone down and make them wrong itself being judgmental? Egads, it probably is. Oh well . . .
Diana Leafe Christian
While using your point as a foundation, I would like to take this opportunity to express my opinion that when somebody condemns the act of being judgmental, it send a big red flag up for me. Maybe they are trying their wicked Jedi mind tricks on me. If I de-activate my judging then I might think that those are not the droids I was looking for. Of course, Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak minded.
Besides "judgmental", here is another phrase I've grown to dislike, and would like suggestions as to how to respond:
"Welcome to life in community," said in response to my bringing up an issue or concern I have with a member, or members in the community. Sometimes I can detect sarcasm; sometimes perhaps resignation? I can clearly identify when the "welcome" is truly felt, and not intended as a speed bump (or brick wall?) in the conversation...
I would appreciate suggestions on how to respond and keep the dialog open and going.
Thanks for the opportunity to bring this up and to think about this!
Yesterday I lead the second day of a workshop on consensus & facilitation at Easton Mountain Center here in upstate New York. One of the participants, who facilitates regularly in her new ecovillage community near here, said something about a common thing that often happens in meetings. I started laughing and walked over to her and took her hand. I shook her hand with both my hands and said, "Welcome to community. This kind of thing happens all the time. It annoys me too!" I hoped it was experienced in the spirit of good will that I meant it.
But now you've got me thinking (again) Jan . . .
When people condemn judgement, I think what they are often condemning is prejudice, or data-free pre-judgement.
That is a possibility. And I think that position is a healthy position: "I think we need more information."
I guess some phrases that send up a red flag for me are:
"I think that person is judgmental."
"I think that person is too judgmental."
"How dare you/they/he/she judge me."
"Who are you/they/he/she to judge?"
These do not seem to suggest that more information be gathered, but that somebody may be discerning when the speaker would prefer that they not be discerning. It is possible that the speaker does not get what they seek because the party in question weighed the request and said "no" - as was their option.
It can be painful to be told "no". And how does one fit back into the world again my one's own standards after being told "no"? Perhaps these phrases help with that.
I think the part about being told "no" even already has a thread here!
The appeal to authority ... I think that is defined somewhere as a formal fallacy, is it not? .... looking it up .... yes "Appeal To Authority Fallacy"
Perhaps what we need here is some sort of marital arts of the english language. First, I think we have well covered that the judgmental stuff gets a bad rap. Judging stuff and judging people is what we need to survive. And when people say "you shouldn't judge" then they are either up to no good, or they may mean something like "I think you don't have enough information yet."
I suppose a good, healthy step might be to simply ask "are you suggesting that I do not yet have enough information?" If they answer "yes" then everything is easy as pie. If they answer "no" then perhaps a good approach is "what about being discerning? Should I be discerning?" And maybe this could open a space for exploring the difference between discernment and judging.
Several other accusation words circulate freely amongst this gang of losers. They regularly cite greed when comparing their own lower than average incomes and status with that of others. The greed thing is brought up during discussions about sharing. Specifically, successful people sharing money and resources with this sad lot.
Hurtful, is another catch all word that is often levelled against opponents in any sort of debate. It's often brought up regarding the merits of tossing gobs of money in whatever direction they would like see it tossed. "He keeps saying hurtful things about my plan to build a publicly funded meditation and yogi flying arena." "They do fly, you just can't see it because you're a sceptic."
Violence --- To my shame, I have been caught up in conversation with a few people who have expanded the meaning of the word violence to include any opposition to their own or their group's position on any number of political, social or economic issues. The common idea that if you're not with us, you're against us is reconfigured. To not support us is to commit violence against us.
Angry Person --- Failure to capitulate and agree with some people results in them coming out with this label for their opponent. "I can see he's a very angry person ; he doesn't want to help us. His parents were mean to him and now he dislikes people."
I see all of these rhetorical tactics as a way for lazy thinkers to engage in debate. No longer do you need to have knowledge of the subject, to present a sound argument, and to have an adequate vocabulary and command of the language to convey your position. That's hard work. It's much easier to simply make some vague accusation and then to have some fellow lazy thinkers nod in agreement.
I agree completely that when someone says you're being judgmental after you've expressed an opinion about liking, or more likely, disliking something, it can be a manipulation. I believe that mostly it's unconscious; that is, the person has no idea they're not being straigtforward and honest. But a manipulation, nevertheless. This happens in communities a lot, especially with people who may have a lot of internal emotional pain that they don't yet know about and haven't yet healed.
I've taught myself some responses to this. (Well, first, I taught myself not to do it anymore myself!) I've taught myself to not take umbrage at this (or take the person's umbrella, either), and to say something like, "Well, I think it's fine to distinguish between things I think are beneficial and things (or behaviors, attitudes, etc., ) I think are harmful. I like to encourage what's beneficial and discourage what's harmful. Do you care about this too?"
Well, damn, of course they do. If they're not too bright, or if they're bright enough but their brains are temporarily overshadowed by (un-felt, un-experienced) emotions, they'll likely not know what the heck I'm talking about and just keep insisting that whatever I said was judgmental. I say "distinguish between choices," they say "judgmental." I mostly don't engage much more after this, because like a certain overall-wearing gentleman of our acqaintance, I ain't got much patience for this. I'm courteous when I disengage from the conversation though. Not because I'm naturally courteous, but because it's one of the "best practices" in community to keep good energy flowing towards other community members, no matter what. I'm not kidding, no matter what. Please ask me about "social capital" in community lately. However, this statement about distinguishing, in one's opinion, between beneficial and harmful things, and asking the person if they care about this too, can often lead them to lift themselves a bit higher in their perspective, and realize that, Oh yeah, it's OK to think clearly about things and make decisions.
Here is a meme somebody put on facebook:
Here is a funny thing: I have heard this concern about judgement coming from the same folks that have concern over my overalls.
So, a person is judging me for being judgemental. And they are judging my overalls.
There's a thought: anybody that says "you should not be judgemental" - haven't they judged me/you as judgemental? So a possible response could be "well, if it is good enough for you, it's good enough for me!"
This is basically dressing with clothes from thrift stores and the "free store" place in the community where people take the clothes they don't want anymore and pick up other clothes others have donated. That's where I get clothes, and I consider myself quite an ecovillage-chic fashionista. My ensembles — shoes, pants, skirts, shirts, dresses, sweaters, and jackets — are comfortable, attractive, made of natural fabrics, fit well, and are exceptionally color-coordinated (upon which I insist!). The only bought-new things are underwear, socks, and scarves (which I have a thing for), but these don't stay new for too long and I wear them, um, till they wear out and I wouldn't want to be caught disrobed. Only then do I get new ones. I must add that my shoes often carry bits of gravel or mulch, and my shirt has a few stray bits of straw and what you might call efluvia of compost. Oh, and fingernails. Hardly ever clean, mostly carrying around minute particles of the rich soil we're attempting to build out in our garden here. So, if there's ecovillage-chic, there must also be Permaculture-chic. And I guess I know who our poster boy for Permaculture-chic is, right?
Perhaps you didn't realize how important fashion is when creating an intentional community? Oh lemme tell ya . . .
What started out in the sixties as an outward display of nonconformity has morphed into a bit of a dress code. Not something that's enforced but something that gives a visual cue to others with whom you may have shared values and interests.
My hair got quite long about 15 years ago. I received regular invites to reggae and ska events and was offered hundreds of puffs on very skinny cigarettes. I got my hair cut to match GI Joe when visitors to my job sites continually approached my clean cut helper Benoit, assuming that he was the guy in charge. The invites stopped and the little cigarettes were mostly hidden from my view after the change in style.
paul wheaton wrote:Here is a word that I have found to be one of the most hostile words ever uttered.
Very funny... I first thought that you meant the reverse ...and that judging was hostile!
or I think the phrase "you shouldn't judge people" is nothing more than a cheap attempt to get your way when you have nothing better to support your cause.
Well, that might be a sort of "do what I say but not what I am doing"... Judging for judging...
It is so easy to mix the "person" and its "acts" when one is overwhelmed by an emotion!
Most people are at least a little sensitive to the attack of disdain, and the feeling of being despised.
Then the "cause" that is judged is not the real cup of tea any more.
And people can feel attacked when they are not. So when I am quick enough to see it, I state what I see: "I can see you are angry, what did make you feel I judged you/him/her/them etc, and not this and this?"
Because it was true, and I could see that, but it still pissed me off.
Projection is the psychological term, and it's rather common. You want to keep this in mind, any time you find yourself being attacked for something you don't really identify with, or anytime you find yourself being peeved all out of proportion with a slight from someone else. For example, if you have issues with time and are frequently late, you might really get annoyed when someone keeps you waiting. ok, that's a lame example but I need to go to sleep now.
Paul, thanks for the explainer--the first several posts do read oddly.
Julia Winter wrote:He would smile and say "We see our own faults in other people." And ooh, I just wanted to punch him when he said that!
Because it was true, and I could see that, but it still pissed me off.
No it is not so true! It is the same violence that wants to stop you from expressing your judgment
(I mean that the judgment is not stopped, just kept inside...)
This is a bit tangential to the actual forum topic, which is about someone trying to shut you down by saying "you're being judgemental." To that, you have a few options for a reply:
1) you say that like it's a bad thing--do you think I'm jumping to conclusions?
2) yes, yes I am.
3) I know you are, but what am I?
I must admit, that I have taken advantage of this weakness. If one person remains totally calm while another freaks out, the freaker has handed their power to the calm person who is unlikely to be swayed by the emotional outburst.
Now on the other hand, so much of what I took to be "real" in my life turned out to be a projection of my own inner psychological constellation, or mere projection, to give away some of the weight, or responsibility for my own inner state. So in retrospect it seems very clear to me that I projected some stuff of mine onto him, or/and that he was feeling equally insecure.
I think most people who seem to be judgemental, they do it out of an insecurity, anxiety, or the plain, old desire to be better than other people - the ego asserting itself to gain momentum. I know that, because when I was/am judgemental, it was/is exactly that mechanism. An enlargement of my personal identity at the expense of somebody else's, born of insecurity, feeling small.
There are also different forms of judgements. (I was about to write that nobody asks you not to use your judgement, but sometimes it seems to me that all of society is asking you to do that.) I think one can use judgement as a life-enhancing principle, or as a means of violence. I believe that the beginning of violence lies in putting labels on somebody, or just plain distorting reality from the existential fact. My flatmate may not have washed the dishes 3 times the last week, and I could say, "He never washes his dishes, that lazy asshat". Or I might say, "In the last week, he didn't wash the dishes 3 times, and that made me angry", which is way closer to the existantial fact than the first sentence, because the first sentence is labeling and categorizing the person, which reduces the totality of what this person is, making static what is actually totally alive and ever-changing, while the second does not reduce the person and leaves space for communication and empathy. If we did not reduce people to mere labels (enemy, bad etc., but good or neutral labels too) we'd have significantly less violence in our world. (let alone judgementality )
(I stole the line of thought of the last paragraph from Marshall Rosenberg who wrote a terrific book about nonviolent communication, short NVC)
But well, using ones judgement to stay clear of certain people to protect myself is something different. To me it's quite hard to draw the line between self-protection is in a sane interest of wanting to survive healthily, or to protect my stubborn, childish illusiory self.
It usually confuses them so much they leave me alone...
"Decisions" apply to oneself. Regardless of how one arrives at them they imply taking singular personal action: Go here, don't go there. Support A, not B. Run away, stay and fight. A decision is yours, all yours. Doesn't matter what anybody else might say pro/con - it's still yours. Buck stops here.
Least that's where I come from.
But accusing others of badness (judgmental, racist, blind, thoughtless, smelly...<g> sounds like just a normal gaming move. The accusation changes depending on current buzzwords, audience, politics of the moment, etc. Actual meanings of the words have nothing to do with the play. The only thing that matters is that the word have some kind of power to be wielded for the purpose of the moment. Common human behavior in all respects.
Sounds like somebody(s) were peeved enough at Paul to try taking a (social) swing at him. Might be worth wondering why. On the other hand, we're known by our enemies as much as by our friends. <g>
I interact with people differently face-to-face than I do in written communications such as web forums. Face-to-face I generally try to avoid being judgmental or make others feel uncomfortable by bluntly speaking my mind. But here, and in email, etc where the communication is indirect and I don't have clues from body language to keep myself in check, I am not so careful.
But I'm a pretty nice guy in person (really, I am) so if you were to judge me negatively by the words I write here, I would of course feel put off a bit. On the flip side of the coin, someone who doesn't know me telling me in person "you're such a nice guy" is being prejudiced because they haven't seen the "real" me.
I believe that the "good sort of judgement" as you list as necessary and sensible in your examples above is often nothing but a flag you wave to _explain_ a choice or decisiion you've already taken. Judgment is something one renders onto others (if one has the power and the authority), not something you use to help reach a decision or understand things. We have one word, "judgment", being used several different ways and that leads to confusion and makes it hard to sort things out.
Being "non-judgmental" means not waving the "here's why" flag. IIt does NOT mean crippling your intelligence or avoiding or failing to make decisions. We make decisions as best you can using all our intelligence, intuitions and yes, our "good judgment" (real bad misnomer therem IMHO). But there is no moral need to explain your decisions (and often good political and social reasons NOT to) and being silent is 3/4 of being "non-judgmental". Kinda like voting with your feet - don't talk about it, just do it ((or is that a mixed metaphor...) - make your decision, take the chosen path and move on sans justification except as your generosity or real politik might indicate. I believe the "explaining yourself" is a large and great act of generosity and one fraught with risk both to you and others.
And if I might presume, I'd venture to say that's one of the major reasons Paul has laid his ground rules the way he has: He has made certain decisions about his life and path and that's that. _Any_ type of further explanation would be fraud because it's a done deal; exlanations pretend that there is wiggle room, haggle room, things to consider, yadda yadda. When there is none of that it's wrong to imply otherwise. His life is his own, he has made legitimate decisions and that's that - let's move on items that _are_ open and in development, not waste time and good will yakking about what's not going to change. Smart guy.
Here's a potentially useful way to regard judgement (and everything attached) in your life:
We often make decisions, experience feelings and form perceptions from a place of judgement. Ooo yes and it feels so satisfying too, doesn't it? Yummy! It helps us to feel our feet on the ground and know where we stand. A lot of us come from a long lineage of opinionated people and it feels right to identify with our surroundings and relationships in this way.
It's very clear to me that judgment- though very useful- functions as an emotional shield of some sort. It can bring us so very close to the raw truth of a thing but will never let us touch it with our bare hands. Nothing wrong with that! If what matters most is moving through the world making wise choices and discerning the right way, judgment gets us where we need to go, and whatever lays beneath the judgment can sleep uncovered as part of our complex subconscious.
The real question for me becomes: what place inside you best serves YOU? Is it the place of judgement, or the place of vulnerability and unadulterated truth right beneath judgment? (Don'tcha get me wrong- LOVE being a judgmental wise ass most of the time and keeping company with the same.)
I find, however, that in learning to live with an open heart and to better serve the universe and myself- that when I look at my judgment and the nonjudgmental truth beneath it (that lead me to the judgment in the first place), it's the latter that helps me the most.
So, I am learning to ask myself "Is this coming from a place of judgment?" and if it is, it's like the potato chips of personal confirmation. So absolutely wonderful. And for me- addictive. But if I need something more, I can look deeper to the truth in my heart- and that's like a perfect baked potato with butter and sea salt. It backs me up and I don't give a sh** what people say because I'm grounded in WISDOM AND POWER! oot oot!
63 years young.
Judgment, you do it everyday of your life from what you want to eat to who you want to hang with. You cannot not be judgemental. I just practice not pissing to many people off everyday.
My wife says I am not very good at that and need more practice.
I only found permies a few months ago didn't realize their are people out there who are actually interested I have made a judgement called a decision to sell my home here Meridian ID and find someplace to live off grid and really practice sustainability.
Love the thought of Montana but brrrrrrrrrrrr 6 months of the year. ( another judgement
Keep up the good work