A Coaching Power Tool Created by Ana Tampanna
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Judgment implies superiority or morality. When we judge others, we feel superior. When we judge ourselves, we feel bad, wrong, or inferior. Regardless of our position in life, none of us can escape the Inner Critic, the loud voice in one’s head that judges. In coaching, the coach takes the role of the observer who is the reminder for a person to acknowledge then dismiss the voice of self-judgment.
Becoming aware of self-judgment, then choosing to dismiss it opens a world of opportunity, and actions that were not possible in the space of the Inner Critic. If anything, the Inner critic paralyzes, diminishes, delays, and even destroys a person’s confidence and self-esteem.
Family members often judge each other. It is natural for family members to judge each other as extensions of themselves. Parents have no idea how much damage they do in parenting their children around concepts of BEING right or wrong…rather than in parenting the actions as not good choices. When children understand that they, as people, are wrong, they have beliefs about themselves and others that influence their thoughts and actions as adults.
When I was three, I opened the front door and froze as my dad’s precious parakeet escaped out the door. My dad’s upset was so frightening to me, I decided right then and there that I was a bird murderer…a really terrible person. I also knew that there was something unfair about the crime…so I spent the rest of my life proving that I was really good, plus I withdrew love from my dad the rest of his life!
My fear of men’s upset or anger caused me to leave 2 marriages, two good jobs, and choose an industry concentration as a speaker that paid the least. It was in a coaching environment that I was able to see how this decision at age three continued to be in the background of my mind and all of my decision making. To this day, I struggle with the desire to be really ‘good,” and to “get it right.”
Often, we collect evidence and agreement around our belief that we or someone else is right or wrong. People express right and wrong as dictated by their faith, their political party, their ethnicity or nationality. “Being right,” is often a commitment with no possibility of connectedness or reconciliation. Being “righteous” is often a state of being that incurs immediate resistance and distain. Coaches who listen for this committed “right” attitude can ask questions that encourage the client to see from another’s point of view.
“I wonder what it is like being a single father with six children?” a coach might ask a resentful adult child. Seeing a situation from childhood with “adult eyes” and a different viewpoint can shift a person’s decision-making, self-concept, and even parenting approaches with their own children or with their spouse.
When judgment is coming from someone else, the result is often humiliation. I remember being 16, dressed in my Sunday best and wearing my new, red high heels. My father was entertaining the department heads from his hospital for the annual Christmas party and I got to be the hostess. As I glided into the living room, aware of the attention from the entire room, my mother called out from the sofa, “Ana! Your slip shows 6 inches.”
I retreated in total humiliation, not wanting to leave my room for the rest of the night, or a lifetime, in fact.
That is being experienced now in public shaming, as experienced in social media, especially facebook and twitter. Teenage and even adult depression and suicides have been attributed to the bullying and shaming on those venues. One story on a TED talk reveals how a woman was followed for days on Twitter, her every move being shamed as a public whipping. The cost to her professional and her mental well-being was disastrous.
Judgment exists only in language. It’s only in language that we make people ‘wrong.” But the resulting impact is far deeper than just language. It becomes a belief, a set of standards, and an experience of one’s self.
Often groups of people are judged as inferior or “wrong.” This is easily seen in racism, and other “isms,” or in sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Feminism is a response to how women are judged and oppressed. Organizations that are selective such as sororities and fraternities are often sources of more mass judgment.
Good judgment is actually discernment…choosing a direction, an action or having a conversation with values leading the discerning process. To encourage good judgment to occur, coaches ask great questions, often revealing biases, or other underlying beliefs in the way. The client can be free once the underlying beliefs are discovered and released.
Another result when judgment is non-existent is the experience of trust. It is difficult to trust someone who is judgmental AND it is difficult for the judge to have trust.
The key to releasing judgment of oneself and others, is to recognize the good, then accept oneself or others with compassion. This often involves forgiveness, and the act of being very straightforward about the judgment that was released. “Cleaning up,” or authentically admitting the judging thoughts, then asking for forgiveness is a powerful way for anyone to heal a relationship. It gives all of us access to a new possibility of relating, trusting, and loving others and even ourselves.
Acceptance is the first big shift for a person who is judgmental or judging a particular person or situation. Accepting another person with compassion for their humanity gives us access to relatedness. For years, I judged my husband’s ex-wife as a bad person who was inherently evil and stupid and the cause of her children’s misfortune and bad decisions. Once I saw that I could have compassion for her, her background, and her circumstances, I realized that she did not have the tools or education that I had, and she did the best she could with what she had. Compassion led to acceptance for her, my extended family and In-laws, and even a new sense of commitment as a parent for the children she had with my husband.
Finally, once judgment shifts to acceptance, another shift is possible: that of choice. Once we accept a person, situation, or circumstance without judgment, we can choose how we will act or react. This is true empowerment.
Recently, I became present to a pattern of behavior in myself that was common in my family. The behavior, one of passive aggressiveness, showed up everywhere once I recognized it. When I was first aware of it, I refused to believe that I was even capable of passive-aggressiveness. Talk about being judgmental! There it was. And the more I looked, the more I discovered it in past and present relationships. This acceptance of my behavior and even the compassionate acceptance of myself as a human being gave me access to a new choice: one of asking for forgiveness.
Taking one relationship at a time, I have approached two husbands from over 40 years ago, a boss from 15 years ago, two estranged brothers, and three step-sons all to ask for their forgiveness for my communication which was distant at best. This new choice of action has freed me from years of guilt, diminishment, as well as fear of future relationships.
Shifting from Judgment to acceptance, to choice brings freedom, confidence, and empowerment. As a power tool, it can be used by everyone. A lighter, more loving world will result and in it, a client with a greater appreciation of himself/herself and the world around him/her.