You can use all of the right words.
You can use “I” statements.
You can have the gentlest tone of voice.
But–if you are judging people–they can feel it.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s stop pretending that other people “can’t tell.” Of course they can tell. Even people you might think are stupid or not paying attention–they can tell.
“But Kate, everyone judges. It’s what people do.”
Roger that. But not everyone is self-righteous about it. Not everyone thinks that their take on life should be everyone else’s. There’s assessing a perspective to see if it aligns with your world-view, and then there’s “I’m going to say things in just a certain way to let you know what I really think you should be doing, all while pretending to be supportive or objective.”
Tres manipulative, non?
People who self-righteously judge keep wondering why they aren’t closer to the people in their lives, why there’s a subtle distance that they can’t quite put their finger on between themselves and other people, why someone doesn’t trust them enough to come to them as a close confidante.
Since it can be hard for others to pinpoint as well, someone who self-righteously judges others might not realize that the judgments that they hold about others, no matter how slight they might say they are, keep everyone at arm’s length.
Even if they think that they hide it well, or have arrived at a place where everyone can agree to disagree, if they carry judgments about how others do it wrong or should do it differently or could have made a smarter, more intelligent choice, other people are going to feel that.
Other people are going to feel it, and they don’t like it.
How I Know This
This is difficult for me to share: I’ve been “that person.”
I’ve been the one who, after a friend told me a course of action, said, “But are you sure that’s really a better choice than [insert what I think the better choice is]?” in neutral tones, keeping my face blank (as if facial expression and tone would be enough to mask what I was thinking: she should do XYZ!).
I know. I shake my head at that. How manipulative. How ego-driven. And to think–I thought I was being helpful, trying to keep a friend from making a mistake!
Compassion time: I was trying to be helpful. This all arose from lack; from feeling that I wasn’t enough just as I was.
I thought that I had to be the brilliant, intelligent, articulate one. I was more interested in getting the credit for helping someone arrive at a brilliant realization than I was in simply being with them, so that they would know they were not alone.
I used to rationalize it as “tough love.” Sometimes I chalked it up to simply having a “straightforward” personality and as a defense, I thought that if other people couldn’t take it, they weren’t true friends.
When enough relationships crashed and burned, I realized that it was time to change. It took me years to figure out. I didn’t even fully see the pattern at work until I started life coaching training, and realized: Oh, heya, look at that. Clients aren’t actually best helped when you try to save them from their suffering.
Since everyone suffers, they’re best helped when they know that they’re not alone.
It’s a very sane act to meet people where they are, without trying in any way to impose our unsolicited opinions (no matter how well-intentioned).
I’ve learned that trying to subtly judge someone into my point of view might “work,” but never in the way I really wanted it to.
What happens? This sort of behavior leaves people feeling like disagreeing with you means they’ll be viewed as less intelligent, less savvy. This is not a feeling that inspires intimacy and connection. More than likely, what will shout louder than anything that you say is something that the recipient feels: This person is judging me.
This isn’t to say that you should agree with everything, nor that you should never speak up. I’m not talking extremes. If someone is being hurt or abused, please–speak up. I’m speaking now to those little, daily pinpricks.
You know what I mean. The little undertones, here and there. The subtle comments. It’s “Mean Girls syndrome” transplanted from the brains of catty 13-year-olds to actual adults, and it needs to stop. I needed to stop.
Really, we all just want to know that we are loved, and that we are okay, and that we are not alone.
At the end of the day, I don’t want to be around the people with the brilliant insights, if it means that when I have a difference of opinion, I’m going to be judged for it (all while they pretend otherwise, wanting me to go along with the charade. Puh-leeze).
We want to be around the people who cultivate safety and trust by letting us know that who we are is enough, for them. That’s who I endeavor to be in my life, today.
Let’s try to be that, for each other.