I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we judge other people – their actions, their words, their intentions. Lots of us like to say we don’t judge (me included!), but it’s simply not possible – and that’s okay. Our judgment helps us make sense of the world, sift through information and enable us to make decisions. It’s a powerful tool that can keep us out of trouble. But like most powerful tools, it can also get us into the very trouble we were hoping to avoid. When we rely solely on our own judgment and don’t allow for any addition context or points of view, we wander into dangerous territory. But it’s hard to see that danger coming, since we believe our judgment is the right judgment.
Judgment is the lens through which we view the world. Shaped by our experiences, our values, and our desires, it’s continually evolving. But what doesn’t seem to change is that we’re confident that our lens – our judgment – is just right. It’s a finely calibrated machine, superior to all others. We’re confident that we have the right balance of when to let things slide and when to hold people accountable. We know when to fight for something and when to let it go. We see the need for transparency but know what to keep closely guarded. We understand when to keep things moving despite discontent and when it’s worth the delay for some additional conversation. We know which boundaries to push and when the status quo is acceptable. Simply put, our judgment is the best judgment.
But no one else on earth has the exact same lens we have, which can make understanding another’s point of view tricky. No one else has our same experiences, values and desires, so no one else will judge things in the exact same way we do. We may come to the same conclusion, but what gets us there will be different every time. Even if we both sit in the same meeting and hear the same information, we’re processing it through what we’ve heard before and what it means to us, and making assumptions about what it means to those around us. All those things lead us to hear the same words differently and make different judgments about them. And that’s just the way it is.
What we can do is try and remind ourselves that there might be room on the spectrum for others, and sometimes, it may be worth a shift in one direction or the other to try and see things through someone else’s lens. Allowing our own lens to shift as we learn more about other world views is a skill we can all develop more fully. Acknowledging that different lenses exist and our own judgment may not always be the best judgment opens the door to a richer, more diverse and fuller view of the world. Of course, it’s easier in some circumstances that others, but like anything, practice will help. Practicing our openness to the judgment of others will only help strengthen and fine-tune our own. Where are your opportunities to see through a different lens?