One of the bad habits that I talk about in my best-selling book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is “Passing judgment: the need to rate others and impose our standards on them.” Some of you may have a boss who does this, some of you may do this yourselves. Let’s analyze this bad habit.
While, there’s nothing wrong with offering an opinion in the normal give and take of business discussions, because you want people to agree or disagree freely, it’s not appropriate to pass judgment when we specifically ask people to voice their opinions about us. In those moments when other people have passed judgment on advice they have solicited from me, my first thought is, “Who died and made you Critic in Chief?”
This is true even if you ask a question and agree with the answer. Consciously or not, the other person will register your agreement, and he or she will remember it with great specificity when you don’t agree the next time. The contrast is telling. The person thinks, “What was wrong with what I said? Why did I bother?”
People don’t like to be critiqued, however obliquely. That’s why passing judgment is one of the more insidious ways we push people away and hold ourselves back from learning what we may need to know to achieve greater success. The only likely thing that comes out of passing judgment on people’s efforts to help us is that they probably won’t try to help us again.
How do we stop passing judgment, especially when people are honestly trying to help us?
Try this: For one week – every time you feel like making a judgment, treat the idea that comes your way from the person with complete neutrality. Think of yourself as a human Switzerland. Don’t take sides. Don’t express an opinion. Don’t judge the comment. If you find yourself constitutionally incapable of just saying “Thank you,” make it an innocuous, “Thanks, I hadn’t considered that.” Or, “Thanks. You’ve given me something to think about.”
After one week, I guarantee you will have significantly reduced the number of pointless arguments you engage in at work or at home. If you continue this for several weeks, at least three good things will happen.
First, you won’t have to think about this sort of neutral response; it will become automatic – as easy as saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes.
Second, you will have dramatically reduced the hours you devote to contentious interfacing. When you don’t judge an idea, no one can argue with you.
Third, people will gradually begin to see you as a much more open-minded person, even when you are not in fact agreeing with them. Do this consistently and people will eventually brand you as a welcoming person, someone whose door they can knock on when they have an idea, someone with whom they can spitball casual ideas and not end up spitting at each other.