Posts Tagged ‘develop others’

Are You Judging or Observing?

October 15, 2008

The other day my son commented that his mother and I were being judgemental. this came after I made a comment about something as we drove down the road.

My immediate response was that I wasn’t judging, but making an observation. This led to a spirited conversation in our car about the differences between observation and judgement. The differences are huge and we see them every day. Here are a couple of examples.

“His hair is long.” – observation

“His hair is too long.” or “His hair needs to be cut.” – judgements

“The table is black.” – observation

“The table is ugly.” – judgement

“She is very skilled.” – observation, if based on truly observing the skills being discussed

“She is better than I am.” judgement, unless there is factual measurement on a criteria that all agree defines “better.”

The conversation we had in our car was more than wordplay or a dictionary challenge. It defines an important concept that we often lose sight of or miss by not thinking clearly. As a leader when developing others, giving feedback or making decisions, we need to be crystal clear on our judgements vs. our observations.

Are you passing judgement on people and their behavior? Whether positive or negative, spoken or unspoken those judgements will have an impact on people’s performance (so if you are going to judge, make it a positive one!)

When giving feedback are your statements largely observational or judgmental? If you try to pass judgement off as fact you risk being wrong and setting a stage for defensiveness, resistance or worse.

While we all need to make judgements, when making decisions, especially important ones, it is again important to separate observation from assumption and judgement. doing so will help you make better decisions.

The differences between judgement and observation can get cloudy, but it need not be. When we speak or think from a place of oberservation, there is no judgement, no assignment of right or wrong, or degree of goodness. Observations are like reflecting a mirror on a situation. Being more observant, and being able to stateour observations are important to our ability to communicate, influence and lead.

No where right now is it clearer than in the campaign for the U.S. Presidency.

Both Senator Obama and Senator McCain (and in many more cases their spokespeople, surrogates and fans) make statements meant to be interpreted as observations or statements of fact, when in effect they are merely judgements or personal interpretations. Use the time you watch or listen to campaign related activities over the next couple of days to help you identify and sort out observations from judgements. This practice will help you in your life, and perhaps help you sort out the truth from the massive spin that is employed by both campaigns as well as their supporters.

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