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Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged?
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Can You Judge without Pre-Judging?

Judging has been getting a bad name for itself recently. That's possibly because there is a narrow range in which "to judge" is a good thing and a broad range where "to judge" is a bad if not evil thing.


I've just begun reading Dr. Marilee Adams' excellent book,  Change your Questions, Change your Life. The storybook plot leads us to a concept called "The Judger Path," a path that takes one from automatic fault and blame questions to who's right or wrong questions that inevitably lead to "The Judger Mud Pit" in which the poor devil is stuck rhetorically asking "Why am I such a failure and why am I so stupid?" Does judging automatically start you down this dirty, ugly path?

Judge Not
Stuck in the Judger Mud Pit?

No...the answer is NO! Perhaps if you assume that all judging emanates from mindless stupidity and a complete disconnect from observable reality, then you can make the case for The Judger Path. But you'd have to ignore the fact that a lot of judging is very much beneficial to all concerned. In fact all human and animal learning and possibly plant learning is based on the ability to make discriminative judgments (note: I did NOT say "discriminatory".)

A "Learner" (the other Path in Adams' story) cannot learn in the absence of an ability to make judgments. Look no further than an Introductory Psychology text under the topics of Learning Principles or Child Development to find overwhelming evidence for this axiom.

So where is the confusion?  Maybe it stems from the possibility that "Learners Never Judge and Judgers Never Learn." That would be a harsh and sad truism. I prefer to think that the problem arises from a belief that to be a judge is identical with being judgmental. Well, is it possible to judge without being judgmental? Yes...the answer is YES!

Here's how I see it. First of all judging automatically involves pre-judging, not the uninformed kind where someone pre-judges in the total absence of any evidence grounded in empirical reality (in other words they use illogical, irrational crazy stuff). A well-reasoned, pre-judgment based on solid empirical evidence avoids this pitfall. Pre-judgment is a "hypothesis," an "expectation" and most recently a "positive mindset" all of which are healthy states of mind. 

Pre-judgment can be a positive mindset!

In Dr. Adams' model the map is titled "Choice Map" on which the Learner chooses a path based on questions that elicit information from the world while the Judger follows a path based on questions that only prompt emotional reactions from his/her inner world. As she puts it: "The choice map is about helping you observe yourself and others better. It's not about labeling people or putting them in boxes. It's a powerful guide for charting more effective paths through our lives."

What does it take to be a Learner Judge? Ask powerful questions! An example can be found in every one of the thirty-four thousand Rotary Clubs throughout the world...The Four-Way Test of what members think, say and do. Learners think while reciting that motto and Judgers react to it with disdain as if it were a meaningless, archaic chant.

Whether you are pre-judging or passing judgment you must use some type of evaluation strategy. Perhaps the most ubiquitous example is the primary care physician who judges your health using a diagnostic evaluation strategy.

If healthcare isn't your thing, then maybe you're a fan of the "Food Network" where talented chefs' cooking abilities are judged by world-famous chefs using their talent for evaluating food based on highly educated palates. When done correctly, the process evaluates first and judges second.

Be The Voice, not the echo Perhaps I can separate judgement and evaluation using a personal example. In our past lives both Dr. Raffettos were college professors and our primary responsibility was to teach, evaluate and finally judge students' performance in courses. In every course we laid out a series of tests, challenges where we evaluated how well students were mastering the course material.

Along the way we'd assign "test grades" to communicate a temporary judgment to students about where they stood in the course at that point in time. In the end we'd add up all our evaluations into the "final grade."  For us the course layout and the test events along the way yielded a diagnostic performance evaluation which we tied to truthful, fair and beneficial final grade judgments of student behaviors.

It's easy to mindlessly pre-judge and to sling judgmental "mud" as you react to your life. That's what the Judger does with his/her "Fixed Mindset." The Learner enriches life by asking questions that promote his/her "Growth Mindset."  Be the Learner!

Don't Lose That Thought, 

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Allen M. "Dr. Al" Raffetto, Ph.D.
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