Hey, Don’t Judge Me!!

What "Judging" Really Is and What To Do About

“Hey, don’t judge me!”  It’s one of those lines that we’ve all been either on the giving or receiving end of, likely both.  But isn’t telling someone not to judge making a judgment? Of course it is .

And that’s why we need clarity and awareness to get this one right. Otherwise we can end up throwing around a catch-phrase to either excuse our behavior or our responsibility to others.

Who Me – Judge?!

The difference between judgement and “judging” is huge. An we’ve all been impacted by both of these, whether our own or someone else’s.  Whether it’s someone getting behind the wheel after drinking too much or the friend who decides to stop them, the judgement we exercise can have huge ramifications…..I do want good judgment to be exercised.

On the other hand, I don’t want someone looking down their nose at me for what I look like, what I do or what I represent. In other words, I don’t like it when someone has a judgmental attitude toward me. Or to use plain vernacular, when someone is “judging” me.  I don’t like the way it makes me feel or the way it makes me feel toward the “judger”.  I bet you don’t either.

Unfortunately, I often find myself doing the same to others.

What I do find interesting is that both the people who protest when being judge and those “judging” often use the same source to justify their position: the Bible and Jesus himself! How can that be?!  While this isn’t a bible study, it’s with noting that the same Person saying “…don’t judge so you won’t be judged” in Matthew 7 also says “….judge according to righteous judgment” in John 7.  Based on this and what other ancients have said, “judging” is an age old problem without cultural or generational borders.

What’s The Difference and Why is it Important?

Exercising good judgment is simply making the best choice possible based on the information you have. In that regard we make judgements all the time about all kinds of issues, things and people. We can also be judgmental. The former is necessary, right and good. The latter is universal to us all, wrong and almost always hurtful.

Once you understand difference between the two, it’s much easier to embrace and make good judgments while recognizing and countering the ill effects of “judging”.

So what are they?  I think the key differences between the two are ones of object, intent, and spirit.

Good Judgement:

  • Object- the decision itself46774934 - judge hammer, isolated on white
  • Intent- make best decision for yourself and others impacted by it
  • Spirit- Truth and objectivity


  • Object- the other person/group/issue
  • Intent- passing sentence on another in order to  self-justify and self-elevate
  • Spirit- Pride and Hypocrisy

Why Do We Judge So Much?

For me and probably most, just looking at the “judging” list is a huge turn-off. Why then, do we engage in it so often?

I think there are several reasons we engage it. First, “judging” can give us a false sense that we’re “better”, that we are are “right” as well as a false sense of security. Second, it makes us feel good in the short-term. I haven’t looked this one up, but my guess is there is a brain-science study somewhere that shows “judging” releases dopamine and all the other endogenous substances that give us a hit and corresponding high.

Here are some other less obvious reasons:

  • We are compelled to do it when we see our own faults in others, hence their “splinter” becomes the “log” in our own eye.
  • We are often blind to it.
  • We usually don’t see (or ignore) the devastating consequences it has, both on us and on others.

The cost/benefit ratio doesn’t add up here so we need to exercise good judgement and just stop it.

How Do We Stop It?

Simply becoming aware of the difference between exercising good judgment and “judging” is the first step (and the easiest). Others include:

  • Self-reflection and examination- Ask with who, what and where you’re prone to judge; we all have ‘em.
  • Check yourself in the moment- Ask what it is your really doing, exercising judgement or “judging”? Assessing your object, intent and spirit will help you know which it is.
  • Cultivate curiosity- Challenge your judgment by asking “what’s another reason a sane, reasonable person would be doing this?”
  • Demonstrate empathy- and make sure to include all three types: cognitive, emotional, and empathetic concern or compassion.

When you put an end to judging, you’re much better able to see people and things the way they really are, make better decisions, and build better and more effective relationships. The other thing is that you become a better you.

Keeping in mind the difference between exercising judgement and judging can keep us from two errors. The first would be throwing around a catch-phrase like “don’t judge me” to excuse our own behavior or our responsibility to others to make good decisions about tough issues. The other is to keep from being a smug, self-righteous “judger” who sabotages themselves and damages others.

Unlike the disappointing cost/benefit ratio associated with judging, the cost/benefit ratio of stopping  is compelling.

One of my colleagues thinks “judging” is one of the most powerful addictions on the planet. He also argues it has the highest rate of recidivism and that we are always in some stage of recovery.  I think he may be right. Addiction or not,  we all do seem to have an “inner Judge” that wants to rule the roost, so to speak. So how do you exercise sound judgment while effectively keeping your “inner judge” in check?

Please leave a comment about something you’ve found to be effective because we all need help with this one.

Why Our Righting Reflex Get’s It Wrong

Why & How Not To Believe Everything You Think

There’s a bumper sticker that says “Don’t believe everything you think.” I think most of us would agree, at least for much of what runs through the fertile fields of our mind. The exceptions, of course, are our cherished personal opinions and positions.

Just as sure as the righting reflex in an infant automatically causes their body to follow their head, so does our need to prove ourselves “right” when talking with others. And unlike the infant righting reflex that we’ve all outgrown, our “need-to-be-right” righting reflex is persistent and has to be actively managed.

I was reminded of that reality once again during a discussion with one of my adult kids just the other day. Once again, I had already said too much, too quick before realizing it was mostly in the service of proving my point vs adding to the shared pool of meaning through dialogue (much to my chagrin).

What exactly is the “need-to-be-right” righting reflex? It’s the desire to fix what seems wrong with people, make them see and concede to your position and set them promptly on a better course. It involves the belief that you must convince or persuade the person to do the right thing.

While the righting reflex is normal, it’s also counterproductive to our personal and professional lives.

What Drives It?

Many things. One is the delusion that if you just ask the right questions, find the right arguments, give the right critical information, provoke the decisive emotions, or pursue the correct logic that you’ll convince the other person to your point of view.  Once done of course, the other person will clearly see the error of their own mistaken ways, change and adopt yours!  The reality? We are all wired to look for evidence to support our views….including the person your trying to convince.  And if we can’t find evidence we often conveniently piece stuff together to make it up, make it fit, or make us feel better. The problem is that  because it goes both ways, a vicious positive feedback cycle occurs. What usually ensues is called an argument.

What’s the Impact?

Usually, a very directing and monologue style of communication that almost always repels the other either into some form of silence or violence. As result, healthy dialogue, creativity, resolution and our relationships suffer…..or can be lost. Even if a person is willing to consider your position, the fact you’re forcing it on them automatically turns him or her in the opposite direction, makes discord more likely than dialogue and turns a potential friend toward being a foe.

What To Do?

  • First, realize what resisting the righting reflex is not: It’s not admitting that your wrong! It simply 37056008 - group of school kids with pens and papers writing in classroommeans your open to learning.
  • Understand that your reflexive response to correct, fix, or make change happen may not be the best choice; you could be mistaken, misunderstand one or more points, be flat-out wrong or simply have a legitimate difference of opinion.
  • Challenge what you’re thinking without a rigid attachment to your own perspective.
  • Listen actively and reflectively. Reflective listening means you can feedback to the other person what they said and ask for understanding or clarification
  • Express an openness to looking at your conclusions from other perspectives; be curious.
  • Be gracious when disagreements remain and remember that the topic is separate from the relationship.

Why Curiosity and Openness are effective.

There are several reasons, not the least of which is that people value their autonomy and agency highly and want to come to conclusions ourselves and not have them forced on us. The other is that curiosity and openness foster rapport and engagement, which helps you better understand the other persons needs and motivations. Once you do, you have a better foundation for effective communication, collaboration and enabling change.

The reality is that our own thoughts are not necessarily the most reliable source when it comes to the truth. Yet it’s so easy to forget that. When we do, we become rigidly fixed in our own perspective, closed to seeing things any other way, and very attached to being “right”. I said it before and will repeat it here: remaining unattached to your position and curious about that of others isn’t admitting you’re wrong, it just means you’re open to learning.

Where is the righting reflex showing up in your life and relationships? Once you answer that question you have a choice to make: you can choose to be effective in a winsome way or you can choose to be “right”.

Comments are valuable, so please share yours.

1 Fundamental You Have To Ditch

To Better Succeed With Relationships And Results

When it comes to fundamentals, basic building blocks of knowledge and skills that lead to mastery and success usually come to mind. What we don’t realize is that there are certain fundamentals that can do the exact opposite for us and lead us to demise.  The Fundamental Attribution Error or FAE is one of those.

The FAE, which also goes by the name of correspondence bias or attribution effect, is probably best understood when described: it’s when we attribute ill-intentions to what another person says or does. The pernicious “other side of the coin” is that when it comes to our own behaviors, we almost always attribute it to our circumstances or environment and not our intentions. In other words, we’re really good and giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt while denying it to others….after, it’s the other person who has the problem, not you (right?).

The FAE isn’t some new concept, it’s been described in the psychology literature for some time. What was new and a jolt for me was being aware of how often I commit it.

What does that look like practically? Here is an example:

Your kid has destroyed part of the drywall in the garage by throwing a screwdriver into it about 100 times and making it stick.  You see it and immediately think how ungrateful and disrespectful the kid is. You also begin to worry about the destructive behavior you know he is beginning to develop.

While I’m not sure that’s what my parents thought back in 1975 when they first saw the garage wall mentioned above, I do know they weren’t happy.  I also know the reason that I did it had nothing to do with the reasons given in the example. It’s just that I had gotten pretty good at throwing a screwdriver and making it stick in the wall.  I simply needed extra practice so I could take it to the next level….with a knife in a tree (oops! didn’t notice I tore up a wall in the process).

After what you just read, are you starting to get a bit of a jolt too?  My guess is you are because the FAE is one fundamental that seems to be inherent vs acquired (although some of us learn to make a fine art of it over the years).  My other guess is that results you get when you make the FAE are the same as mine: not good for either your relationships or outcomes.

So what to do?

First, be aware of 5 signs that indicate you may be tromping around in FAE territory:

  1. Disappointment in the other person or pride in yourself.52285885 - the concept of people opposed to judging system
  2. Self-justification, excuse making, and giving yourself the benefit of the doubt.
  3. Anger, frustration and casting blame and judgement toward others.
  4. Inferring motives to others you wouldn’t ascribe to yourself in the same situation.
  5. You feel these same things from others and feel judged or victimized.

Second, replace a trending FAE mindset with:

  • Curiosity and Interest – observe behavior and results from a place of curiosity.
  • A key question- what are some other reasons  an otherwise sane and rational person would do this (besides the one you are inferring)?

If want to improve your relationships and results, consider how the FAE is impacting you.  It’s one of those low-hanging fruit kind of things you can begin to address and get really positive results fairly quickly…with practice. Like many things, it’s simple and not easy.

If this is all new, where and with who is the FAE showing up most in your life?  If you decided to address it, how would it positively affect your relationships and results?

If you’ve already recognized FAE and are addressing it, outstanding!  What’s working well for you and what isn’t?   Please leave a comment and share the wealth.

A Secret To Emotional Fitness And Mastery:

How To Gain A Competitive Edge!

There is no better example than the Olympic games to remind us that the difference between a gold medal and no medal is usually mere tenths of a second.  Emotional fitness and mastery is a lot like that. Sometimes the difference between getting a deal done, nurturing or ruining a relationship or simply enjoying or lamenting a pleasant evening at home comes down to the smallest differences in our actions and attitudes.

There have been times that I’ve been on the losing end of all the examples listed above. In many cases I simply hadn’t put in the work to develop my Social and Emotional Intelligence (SEI) to the level it needed to be.  In other cases I was simply ignorant.

So what’s the secret to gaining a competitive edge with your emotional fitness?  Shifting your model and perspective on what your emotions mean to you.

When emotions are viewed as “positive” or “negative”, we often do whatever’s necessary in order to experience pleasure and avoid pain.  And what seems to be a good decision in the moment to escape the pain may not turn out so well later on.

So what’s the alternative model? It’s this: view emotions as pleasant or unpleasant information signals to be acted upon.

Take disappointment and frustration for example, the two emotional states I’m challenged by the most. When I viewed them as positive or negative as I had in the past,  I hated the way they felt and would usually do whatever I needed to do to get rid of them.  The results? Sometimes it worked, and sometimes things got worse.34783881 - detail of a shift lever

Now, viewing them as unpleasant bits of information, I’ve been able to actually learn something and take informed action:

  • Disappointment- it let’s me know I’m not getting the result I expect and I need to revisit my expectations and make sure they align with the reality I’m dealing with.
  • Frustration- it let’s me know what I’m doing isn’t working and I need to change my approach in order to achieve what I want.

The other advantage of this model  or “secret” is the freedom to fully experience my emotions regardless of their nature and know that once I act they’ll soon pass.

The ability to shift assumes a basic level of emotional fitness and being able to name the emotion you’re experiencing in the moment.  If you can’t or that’s a new concept, that may be  where you may need to start. If you can, then look for and welcome opportunities to practice regularly and often.

What emotions sabotage you the most and how would shifting your perspective give you a competitive advantage?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to know.


How To Ensure Flow Instead of Fireworks In Your Relationships

How often do you walk away from an encounter with a friend or family member scratching your head or clenching your fists because of what they said or did?  Instead of an optimal experience (i.e. “flow”), we get fireworks instead (i.e. hell).  For most, it happens too often and we really don’t know why. After all, the issue was as clear as a bell…..for us.

Last Sunday, I read an article in the paper with the headline “Don’t confuse health care “right” with “entitlement” that gave me some insight into the issue. After all, politics seems to be the definition of discord these days.  While it seems odd that a political article could give insight into relationship discord, I found some.

The insight that connected the dots for me is that we too often view aspects of our relationship with others as a right, an entitlement or both.  In order to make sense, it’s critical to know the difference between the two.  A right is a moral or legal position of inherent ownership.  An entitlement is a benefit paid for by others.

Keeping with the political theme, JFK’s familiar quote provides additional perspective: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  If more of us had this perspective on a personal level it would go a long way to in making our relationships more healthy and whole…which would spill over into our national national discourse as well.

Why don’t we?

Two big reasons are right and entitlement. We typically have them as expectations in our relationship with others and to make matters worse, we confuse the terms.022 Settled2 25840623_l

  • We often assume rights in relationships where we have none. Do you really have the right to assume you have all the information?
  • We often demand entitlements from others. Are you really entitled to have the other person hear you out fully when you haven’t done the same for them?

To compound matters further, our emotional bank account with those we have friction with is usually over drawn or no emotional capital has been deposited within the last 30+ days.

Knowing what’s needed and having proper perspective is only one part of the equation, doing is the other.

So how do you go from a perspective of “right” and “entitlement” to having flow in your relationships on a consistent basis? By leveraging the following three powerful questions:

  1. What do I want for myself?
  2. What do I want for the other person?
  3. What do I want for the relationship?

Asking yourself these three questions before you interact with others will jolt your perspective and make it clear on who you need to be, what you need to do and how to do it. Done repeatedly, it becomes a habit that will ultimately transform your mindset and your relationships.

So, with who or what relationship do you need to change your perspective? You know, the one you’ve probably been avoiding or ignoring. And what would it mean for both of you if asked yourself the 3 questions above and took action to make that happen?

Step up, give a shot and then leave a comment that can give us all more insight.


2 Sure-fire Ways To Spot A Fake Smile

Why It Matters To Your Leadership More Than You Think

Were you ever greeted by anyone with a smile and you weren’t quite sure whether they were well intentioned, insincere, or pandering? I know I have have. Faces can convey  a lot without saying a word, especially a smile.

I just finished reading “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future” by Daniel Pink. In it, he discusses Dr. Ekman’s research into universal fascial expressions and the emotions they convey.   Concepts like “slight expressions” and “micro-expressions” were new to me. However, the part that really caught my attention was in the section on Empathy dealt with smiling (pages 165 – 167 to be exact). Specifically, the difference between a fake smile and a real smile.

Now, I think I’m pretty good at reading folks and connect well with most people. Having said that, it means I also probably overate myself in that regard (aka overconfidence effect  or overprecision). One thing I am certain of is that there have been times when talking with people that I wasn’t sure of how I was impacting them.  It was hard to read their perception of something I said or did, which made it hard to connect.  In the context of friendships and working relationships that can be a problem. In the context of leadership, it can be a disaster.

Back to smiling. Although it seemed odd at first to read about smiling and empathy in the same short chapter of a book, the more I thought about it the more it made sense.

Smiling is one of the most recognizable fascial expressions we have. It also probably gives us the greatest ability to connect with others and influence their state.

Smiles come in a variety of flavors: soft smile, sweet smile, gentle smile, encouraging smile, tepid smile, sad smile (yes)……and even empathetic smile. Given how nuanced smiling can be the list could go on. The one common thread between these is sincerity. In other words, a genuine or “Duchenne” smile.  The one smile that does not share that common thread nor connect with and influence others is a fake smile; neither the one you give or the one you receive.

So what’s the connection with smiling, leadership and empathy?  Simple: smiling can strongly connect us with other people. And empathy, along with the other competencies of social-awareness, is the lynch-pin of your personal ability to manage relationships with others.  As a leader, it’s the cornerstone of your most basic, primal task: to prime positive emotions in your followers. Once primed, positive emotions will sustain a resonance in your followers that inspires, motivates and empowers them to do great things.

So how can you spot a fake smile?

First, know and learn to recognize the two distinguishing features of a genuine smile:

  1. Contraction of both zygomatic major muscles, which raises the corners of the mouth.
  2. Contraction of the obicularis oculi muscle, which pulls the eyebrows down slightly and raises the cheeks. The more subtle distinguishing features that helped me see this effect is that the skin under the eyebrows is pulled a little higher and the eyes themselves appear a little narrower.1116 fake-vs-real-smile

Second, know and learn to recognize when #2 above is missing. If so, it’s a fake smile.

I think Dr. Ekman said it best: “The emotion of frank joy is expressed on the on the face by the combined contraction of the zygomaticus major muscle and the obicularis oculi. The first obeys the will but the second is only put into play by the sweet emotions of the soul.”

Simply knowing something usually doesn’t get you very far; it’s no different with smiling.  One of the best ways to actually make your new-found knowledge useful (and fun) is to assess your prowess at differentiating between genuine and fake smiles. You can do that by taking this Spot the Fake Smile test. The other is to start practicing regularly.

Smiling sincerely and recognizing it in others can improve your ability to connect with, influence and lead people. In fact, as a leader your “smile IQ” takes on even more significance: you can’t afford to be clueless!  And to smile regularly, intentionally and sincerely requires emotional intelligence and  emotional fitness; you really have to feel it or your faking it.

How would you rate your “smile IQ”?

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts or how you did on the Fake Smile Test; it’ll probably make me smile :).


Why How You See It Determines How You Feel It

The framework through which we view events determines what we make of them.  Like it or not, aware of it or not, and admit it or not, we all have frameworks we use to filter our experiences. Your emotions are no exception, you have a set of lens for how you see those too.

The notion if seeing things better than they really are is nothing new. Growing up, I remember a song sung by Ronnie Milsap (who is blind) with central theme devoted to this kind of colored perspective.  It was called “Rose Colored Glasses” and the chorus went like this:

“But these rose colored glasses…That I’m looking through…Show only the beauty…’Cause they hide all the truth.”

As I thought about it more, I realized that when it come to emotions our usual frame work of seeing them as positive or negative almost does the reverse for us. The chorus could be changed to:

“But these binary-colored glasses…That I’m looking though…Show only pain or pleasure…But hide the rest of the truth”

When we see our emotions as positive or negative, we discount some (like frustration, fear, and disappointment) and idolize others (like happiness, excitement and calm). In other words, we see our emotional state primarily as a place we want to “be in” instead of conveying useful in formation we need to consider and act on.  Oh, we do act, but it’s usually just to avoid pain and get back to “feeling’ good” as quick as possible.  Given that no one likes to live with emotions like frustration, fear, and disappointment, what’s a better way?

One way is to filter our emotions using a framework of pleasant/unpleasant and the amount of associated energy involved. That is exactly what Marc Brackett, Robin Stern and their team at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence are investigating.   As part of their work, they’ve developed an app (the MoodMeter app) that can not only help you see your emotions through that framework, but helps you train to that end as well.

The other needed perspective is to view your emotions as valuable signals, which that can give you useful information when you learn how to interpret them. By combining these two frameworks, you can take informed, intentional action that not only serves your bests interest but allows you to shift  your unpleasant emotional state into something you’d like to experience more of instead.

With a simple change in the lens through which you view your emotions, you can gain a more empowering perspective that frees you to be a Creator instead of a Victim.

So, what emotional eye-wear do you have on and how do you see it?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear any insights you have.