“You’re being judgmental!”
I have been accused of this several times over the last 5 years of my life. It usually comes in a moment where people feel I need to be more lenient with the assessment of another person’s lifestyle choices. It used to bother me a lot and cause me to pause and think through whether I was being too harsh on a friend or family member. However, recently I’ve realized that I have never used those words when someone was being critical of me. I’ve been thinking, “Why?” Why are other people so quick to deploy this statement in defense of their behavior and I’m not?
First off, I’ve dealt with plenty of judgement from other people in my life. Whether it was being bullied when I was a child or being called a fool when I left Engineering, for as long as I’ve been alive people have always had something critical to say about who I am or what I am doing. Over the years I’ve learned to ignore these criticisms as people just being plain ridiculous. How can you accurately judge a situation that you have no understanding of? Most of us understand social norms and when someone breaks social norms for very logical reasons it messes with some people. It’s normal to take a high paying job and deal with whatever lifestyle impact that job has. It’s less conventional to walk away from the high paying job for your health and emotional well-being, even though that makes a lot of sense.
The confidence to trust my own problem solving skills has come from doing the work to solve big problems like weight loss and getting out of debt. Personally, I find it exhausting to snap back at someone because their story produces criticism of my decisions, which are based on facts and reasonable assumptions.
The reality might be that people recognize a kernel of truth in my judgments of their situation and they’re just not ready to face it.
Though uncomfortable, there are times I listen to people’s criticism because I know they’re telling the truth and I need to hear it. This has happened several times with my business as a speaker over the last three years. This writing and speaking thing is my baby and it doesn’t feel good when someone criticizes your child but, I want my child to grow so if the criticism is warranted I have to at least be willing to hear it.
The easiest thing to do when someone is saying something we don’t want to hear is to ignore (because it might be ridiculousness) or criticize them back by calling them ‘judgmental’. It’s like the ‘get out of jail free’ card of difficult conversations. When we’re not ready to face something we’ll do anything to avoid the truth, including hurt the people who are trying to help us face that truth.
A few questions…
I guess a question to spend some time with when we feel like we are being judged is, “Is there some truth to what this person is saying?” We would have to be willing to see criticism as a prompting for reflection rather than something to be avoided. Doesn’t mean that everyone gets to criticize you but you also can’t control what comes out of another person’s mouth. So, everyone can criticize but everyone’s criticism doesn’t warrant reflection.
Of course, you may be the judge in the situation and you might ask yourself, “Do I know this person well enough to be able to have context for their behavior?” You also might ask yourself, “Have I done hard work on myself that gives my words enough weight and authority to be heard by this person?”
It’s hard to ask of others what we won’t ask of ourselves.