Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Matter of Perspective

Humans make judgments. We do it all the time.

We judge pretty much anything that enters our awareness.

You see it. You judge it. It's good, or it's bad.

The degree of goodness or badness may be so small that you don't notice that you've made a judgment. You smell bread baking in the oven and you breath a sigh of contentment; you've judged baking bread as good. You hear a snippet of the latest office gossip and your shoulders tighten; you've judged what you heard as bad.

Sometimes you don't use the words "good" or "bad" to reflect the valence of our judgements. You might use words like "OK" or "Hmm" (both of which could mean either good or bad). Sometimes you might pretend that a judgement is something else, an assessment.

Assessments are not judgments. They are qualitative and/or quantitative evaluations that lack emotional charge. They are evaluations to which we do not apply values.

Assessments are easily confused with judgments. People who make a matter-of-fact assessment are often accused of being judgmental. People who make judgments often explain themselves as having simply made an assessment.  An assessment always carries at least a bit of judgment and a judgment carries at least a bit of assessment.

The pure, non-judgmental assessment is a mythical creature. A formal assessment conducted by someone who has had no previous experience with the person, place or thing being assessed still carries bias (i.e., judgment), even if the assessment is purely quantitative and uses mechanical or electrical devices to record data. The data collector may have no judgments whatsoever. Yet bias can be found in the selection of criteria measured or questions asked or tools used.

So what?

Good question.

The answer is this. You can't get rid of judgment. To tell yourself otherwise is, well, silly.

So what?

So rather than pretending you have no judgments, how about embracing them for what they are? Know that any time you make an assessment, you've made a judgment. It can be positive or negative. It can be reflected in how you qualify or quantify something or someone. It can be reflected in your selection of the criteria you measure or the questions you ask.

It's always there and by paying attention to it, you can learn a lot about yourself and how you operate. More often than not you'll find that you "assess" as good, activities, things or people that align with your preferences or your goals.

Take the same product and render it in two colors, one that you love and one that you hate. Undoubtedly, your quality assessments of them will vary.

Take someone who is stubborn and pigheaded and align his goals with your goals. Voila! He's now someone who's persistent and will never give up.

Is it a flower or is it a weed?

Is she a creative genius or a head-in-the-clouds flake?

Is he an optimist or does he lack any sense of the "real world?"

Is she passionate or is she a fanatic?

Is he a visionary or a day dreamer?

Was she distracted or was her focus elsewhere?

Was he honest or insensitive?

Is she courageous or foolish?

Positive or naive?

Love your judgments (i.e., judge them as good) and you'll see yourself and how you do things in a whole new way (which I judge as good).

Happy Wednesday,

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