A Point of View
article focuses on a point of view about how the
judgmental ness of our thinking and speaking affects
each of us as individuals, our relationships with
others, and our society as a whole. This material and
these concepts are purely points of view.
Nothing contained herein is “right.” You are encouraged
to consider this material in the context of whether you
find it useful and helpful to you. If you do this,
rather than thinking of it as either “right” or “wrong,”
you will have taken an important step in “trying on”
THE CATEGORIES WE USE
our society, we have a tendency to categorize many
things (ideas, philosophies, rules, procedures, etc.),
individuals, and groups/organizations. Categorization
in itself is useful and necessary in dealing with the
complexity of our lives. Whether or not the categories
we choose are helpful or counter-productive to us
depends upon the nature of the category.
observe something or someone, we simply take in
that which we are experiencing. We do not
compare it with anything else. We see the
situation/people from purely a factual standpoint.
We develop an opinion about something we have observed
when we begin to
compare it with something else. We bring our beliefs
into the equation.
meaning to what we have observed.
begin to develop judgments about people and situations
when we characterize
what we have observed. This happens once we
attach a value to our opinions.
DO THESE LOOK LIKE?
are our judgments manifested? We can see these most
clearly in our speaking and our thinking. (This is not
to say they are not present in our non-verbal actions;
we just cannot see them as clearly.) We do not need to
look far; they are pervasive. Here are some examples:
That boy is
pulling the girl’s hair.
He is hurting her.
He’s being mean.
You said you would be here at 5:00; you
arrived at 5:15.
You failed to keep your promise to me.
A woman takes a
young boys hand across the street.
She is watching out for the boy’s safety.
She is a good mother.
A woman puts her half-eaten meal in the
She did not like the food I fixed for her.
She is wasteful.
A man stops his car and changes a tire for
the woman with the flat.
That was a nice thing to do.
He is a very considerate person.
HOW WE BECOME JUDGMENTAL
Where does our judgmental ness come from? Family,
teachers, … all kinds of adults and children in our
lives. A parent tells their child, “That’s Rude!” or
“Don’t be mean!” or “Stop being so impatient!” or
“That’s very impolite.” Why? Because being judgmental
is easy and quick and requires no personal
involvement. We do not have to open ourselves
up when we say judgmental things. Saying “I don’t want
you to do that” or “I’m upset with you for doing that”
or “Please do not do that” or “I am scared you will hurt
her” or “I don’t like that” takes more time
to think about and to say; these also leave us
more vulnerable to questions or comments from
Judgmental exclamations like those listed above are more
likely to close out conversation; they are difficult to
refute. Less judgmental alternatives, on the other
hand, leave a greater chance of dialogue.
It is this very dialogue that builds intimacy.
Responding to a child’s “Why?” question can build an
emotional bond between parent and child. The child
learns why the parent thinks certain things, not
just what the parent thinks. This in turn
increases the likelihood of the child coming to ask for
advice in another situation.
child who is taught “right and wrong” tends to learn
decision making in terms of “rules.” They do not have
to think for themselves when they have a hard and fast
rule they can apply. Their decision-making will be in
terms of the consequences of following the rule or
“disobeying” it --- rather trying to figure out what
kind of person they want to be. Such a child may comply
with the rule while in the presence of the rule maker(s).
However, in the absence of an internally developed
process for making decisions, such a child will
more likely grow up with “voids” in their decision
making criteria --- leaving them to making choices that
do not serve them or the relationships they are in, as
they grow older. [To parents who wonder “How can I
affect my child’s decision-making process in a positive
way?” --- one answer is to model the behavior you want
the child to exhibit. For example, to get a child to
say “please” and “thank you,” always say please
when asking the child to do something.]
difference does it make which method of thinking and
speaking we utilize? Our choices have profound and
pervasive effects on our self-esteem, the quality of our
relationships, and the extent we meet our goals. Will
we be “better” people if we focus more on our opinions
and less on our judgments? Probably not. We will have
consequences for the choices we make. Again, these
consequences are neither good nor bad. We may
like or dislike the consequences, which is different
from being right or wrong.
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