Critical Thinking or Judging?

Critical Thinking or Judging?


It can feel like semantics when we approach this topic. Judging, criticizing, evaluating. What are the real differences.

Since my goal is not connected to our use of language but our use of compassion and honesty I'm not going to focus on nuances.

There is a fine line between taking an honest inventory of our feelings about someone else and judging them. In order for us to set healthy relational boundaries in our relationships we need to be able to accurately acknowledge how someone else's actions impact us. 

Critical thinking allows us to notice patterns, see people's shortcomings, predict likely future patterns and take appropriate action on our end.

Let's use an example.

Joe, when he is stressed, becomes larger than life. His voice gets louder, he takes control by forcing his opinion on others and he uses intimidating body postures. 

My critical thinking allows me to see this pattern, notice how it affects me, create strategies for how to work with and around Joe when this is happening and ultimately lets me be less vulnerable to his tactics.

So far so good. So, what is judgment?

Did you notice how in the critical thinking example the observations were about Joe but also about me and that the focus was on what I could do differently.

Judgment is about us doing 3 other things that usually make things worse:

  1. Assuming what is behind the other person's actions - assuming we know their heart, reasons, motivations, etc. We don't know Joe's back story or even current bigger story for that matter.
  2. We put ourselves in a place of being better or superior - it makes us feel better about ourselves.
  3. We decide how much slack to cut those around us based on our own skill levels and abilities. E.g. "This team is so slow at responding, what a bunch of lazy people" - reality being that you may be a fast, extroverted thinker working with more detailed introverted thinkers who are processing many more details. 


What happens in judgment is that we get focused on the faults and shortcomings of the other person in ways that take our eyes off of ourselves. We give ourself an out by concluding with how terrible that other person is.

So, questions, of course, that we can ask ourselves?

  1. Am I expecting behaviors from someone that perhaps they legitimately are not capable of at this point?
  2. What can I do differently to have a healthier or more productive outcome with this person or on this team?
  3. When people experience my imperfections what would I like them to do? How can I be just as gracious?

Until next week,


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