We continue a series on how to effectively manage emotions, so that we can engage more thoughtfully in relationship. All of the skills we discuss are designed to support the ultimate goal of wisdom (see post titled, “Emotion Regulation 1.0”).
Today’s skill: taking a non-judgmental stance. Don’t judge others or yourself as good/bad, worthy/unworthy, fair/unfair….
Even if you’ve mastered observe, describe and participate fully (see last three posts), taking a non-judgmental stance may be especially challenging. Human beings tend to have tremendous difficulty being impartial to others who don’t experience the world as they do. We find it easy to set ourselves up as the standard for everyone else to follow.
This can be especially true in our most intimate relationships, because so much is at stake there, and life is just easier when the people we’re close to see life in a similar way. It’s just not not realistic. So we need to cultivate a way to allow others to have their opinions and ideas without judging them.
We All Arrive at Our Ideas Honestly
We’ve all come by our ideas honestly as a result of our natural temperament combined with the conditions in which we grew up. Taking a non-judgmental stance is easier when we ask about those stories. When we’re fully present with someone, we simply try to see life from his or her perspective, without feeling any pressure to adopt his or her worldview.
This is how we develop an understanding of the Other, even though we likely won’t buy into the opinions of someone with a drastically different temperament or upbringing. We can only try to accept where the Other is coming from, and hope that they will do the same with us, whose views are alien to them.
Focus Only on What You Can Control
Perhaps you’re skeptical, and that’s understandable. There’s a lot of judgment going on, and it’s hard to curb it in ourselves, let alone imagining others doing that, too. But if you start with yours truly, you might infect those around you with a similar non-judgmental attitude over time.
If not, you’ll still cultivate a peacefulness that judgment cannot deliver, and there won’t be such chaos and frustration inside, with all the unpleasant symptoms that judgment does deliver.
Just becoming aware of your own judgments is a great start. You can’t change anything you haven’t identified, and a little bit of awareness can go a long way. Every little bit counts, but don’t be surprised if you find that you hold a lot more judgments than you realized. They’re prolific little buggers, and as difficult as bedbugs to extinguish.