The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are. – Michael J. Fox

We judge

It’s human nature – indeed many studies suggest judging one’s surroundings, including the people with whom we’re interacting, is essential for survival and is a highly-developed skill through generations of evolution. As we’ve become more evolved and our understanding of our fellow human beings progresses, does the need for judging still exist? Perhaps not, but it nonetheless remains our habit. A challenge for each of us, even while acknowledging the evolutionary habit, is to examine these judgments of the physical aspect of individuals in a context of expectations. Do we expect someone with gray hair to be unable to understand your goals? Do we expect someone with a cane will be unable to perform day-to-day office tasks? Do we expect someone with tattoos to have greater or lesser accountability? All of these visual cues are mixed into our initial judgment about the individual. Too often, we make an assessment: too old, not smart enough, the wrong “type.”

See and reconsider

Many of us evaluate people and their abilities based on a variety of visual (and auditory) cues. However, just like the old adage of judging a book by its cover (don’t!), we must learn to take a second look at that employee candidate, that potential business partner, that new team member. See beyond the immediate to understand and realize the possibility. Perhaps the gray hair is nothing more than a style choice. Perhaps it is someone, irrespective of age, who outperforms the most experienced person on your team. Perhaps that cane is a temporary need due to surgery. If left to our original judgment, we can miss out on an extraordinary experience with a team member who brings that critical piece to the process. Don’t let your judgments precondition your expectations. Judge again; reconsider; expect better of yourself.  This is not to undermine the survival instinct of an initial gut reaction. That instinct is important and should be heeded, particularly in times of high stress or danger.  But our decision-making can benefit from thinking just a moment longer or asking another question about that individual with whom you’re speaking. Consider his or her purpose. Try to uncover their own expectations – of themselves and their team mates. Align your team to better understand everyone’s expectations and help them, and yourself, to judge differently so that you understand the full capability of each participant.
Post written by Lori E. Green, director of relationship marketing at Facilitator on Fire, and a freelance fundraising and donor relations professional. 

Want to become a leader who inspires teams of all 5 generations to become less judgmental – and more effective, curious and connected? Join the May 21, 2019 Great Teams on Purpose Mastermind. Registration closes May 17.

Kay Coughlin, CEO and Chief Facilitator of Facilitator On Fire, is on a mission to help iGen/Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X-ers and Boomers (and Traditionalists, too!) work together on teams that are higher-performing and happier.

Kay’s Great Teams on Purpose Mastermind helps leaders and managers build amazing multi-generational teams (register here). The skill she teaches in her public speaking, “How to be Heard in a Noisy Business World,” is part of the formula she created to help teams become abundantly successful, together.


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  1. Gary Monti

    Another great blog!
    Expectations can be the kiss of death…wall us off from the rest of the world. I’ve found it to be a daily challenge to just look and take things in without letting my gut feel or previous experiences or expectations immediately start interpreting the situation. It’s a challenge that is well worth it.
    By just looking, similar to how a child just takes things in, genuine information (rather than projections) can be gathered and more opportunities can be seen by making better connections.

    • Kay Coughlin

      Thank you, Gary! Lori really knocked it out of the park with this post and I am so glad you thought so, too! We miss so much when we limit ourselves to observing with our eyes – we have 5 senses, after all. Not to mention that most of us have a vast reserve of untapped patience we could learn to rely on, if we could only give ourselves permission to take things a bit slower or wait. When our expectation and intention is to understand rather than judge, everybody wins.