Taking the Sting Out of Being Judged

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It’s not the risk of doing something differently that gets in my way, it’s the possibility of being personally judged if what I do challenges others or doesn’t work out as planned that gives me pause. While the compliments I’ve received in my lifetime fade into a pleasant blur, I can recall many of the personal judgments that have been leveled at me with a crackling clarity. And they still annoy me. I’m guessing I’m not alone.Let me be clear, I welcome – and even pursue – insightful, constructive commentary and criticism that invites and challenges me to greater levels of self mastery. What I find hurtful are the personal digs, demeaning comments, and second-hand assessments of me as a person. Those can sting, if I let them.

Making change happen means making waves. You’re bound to get a few in the face. That’s no reason to stay out of the water.  If you’re going to contribute anything of true significance, you will have to rise above your fear of being personally criticized.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed about personal judgments:

  • People tend to resort to judgment when they feel frightened or threatened by the actions of others. Even if the “threat” is simply being different in some way.
  • The people who judge others often have smaller worldviews than the people they are judging. The more experience people have with the world, the more able they are to accept, and truly value differences of all kinds.
  • Judging others is a safety measure for the person making the judgment.  People use judgment as a way to try to maintain “the safety” of the status quo by ostracizing the more daring souls trying to change things.
  • People judge the people they believe are judging them.  Judgment is like a contagious disease. Once it starts it tends to spread quickly and stick around for a long time. 

Bottom-line: The judgments leveled against you are rarely about you, personally. They are much more a reflection of the person doing the judging.

To take the sting out of a personal judgment, try this:

  • Ask yourself, “What do I own about this judgment, really?”  What is this assessment telling you about yourself and your behavior? Feeling threatened is no excuse for bad behavior on either side of the judgment equation. If, upon reflection, you feel you’ve personally hurt someone with your behavior, then own that and clean it up as graciously as you can.
  • Reflect upon what the judgment is telling you about the other person or people. Consider how your actions might frighten or threaten others. Is there anything you can do to reduce their fears without compromising your values and efforts? Can you empathize with their fears, even if they are not your own?
  • Be willing to be the bigger person. Judging those who judge you severs any opportunity to build a shared bridge to a better future. Focus on the higher ground of what you are trying to achieve and keep moving in that direction.

Think of change as being like a wave, some people will be part of the crest while others will reach the beach later. And some won’t get there at all. The people in the crest get a better view, a wilder ride, and sometimes they crash into the beach. The more waves you ride, the easier it gets to leave the personal judgments behind you and focus on where you’re headed. I hope you’ll enthusiastically catch the next wave of change you see coming – and enjoy the ride!

What are your thoughts and ideas on dealing with personal judgment?

Dianna L. Anderson, MCC
CEO, Cylient

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