As a friend shared about another’s recent error in judgment, I found myself reacting. As she told how the person involved should have known better, I immediately remarked on a time I thought my friend behaved in a similar way. Rather than simply showing compassion for the other person’s experience, or being more curious about my friend’s thoughts, I immediately did what I did not like hearing her do. Here I sat judging a friend for judging someone else. Then, of course, I started judging myself for judging her.
When I was practicing law, I usually advised my clients to pause a few seconds before answering a question. It is so much easier said than done. Our primitive minds tend to go into reaction mode. Judgment tends to occur without much thinking or pausing. Of course, judging does not allow us to see the fullness of the situation and tends to create rather than resolve conflict. As I have discussed many times, what people do and say generally reflects a way to meet a need, which means we were both trying to meet needs.
What needs? By telling the story, my friend perhaps wanted to meet a need for clarity or connection, and by pointing out her past, I was trying to show understanding for the person being discussed. Then, by judging myself, I wanted to express more compassion for my friend. As so often happens, we created the exact opposite results. Much more effective ways exist for meeting the needs for clarity, connection, understanding, and compassion.
When I find myself judging, I usually am experiencing some other unmet need. It may be my own need for support or understanding. Being aware of these needs helps identify other ways to meet them that align better with who I want to be, and plays an important role in resolving conflict within myself as well with and for other people. When you say and do things that you prefer not to say and do, what do you usually need? How do you meet those needs in a way that best serves you?