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Exercising Good Judgment

Everyone has heard the word “judgment” and for most of us this word has a negative connotation related to the inevitable unfairness we associate with judging others. What does that really mean?

Judgment can be exercised for good, especially in delicate or stressful situations, and in this context it is often referred to as a positive characteristic among strong leaders. Another definition of the same word reads “forming an opinion or estimation of something or someone after careful consideration.” It is part of our human nature to make judgments of our world and the people in it, but we don’t always consider those judgments carefully. Instead, we tend to make them haphazardly but regard them as if they were factual observations based on certainty.

How often do we make judgments without “careful consideration” and evaluating all the evidence, either because it’s inconvenient or simply unavailable to us? Judgments are an unconscious by-product of the constant narrative developing in our minds and they can help us make decisions without demanding too much of our cognitive resources. However, we often neglect to compensate for the influence of our own biases and misinterpretations that cloud our judgment and distract us from the facts.

Recently, while listening to a radio program I learned of an effective way to re-frame the judgments we make and to avoid the negative results we associate them with. The process is built around another word, discernment – “the quality of being able to grasp what is obscure; to show good judgment and understanding.”

As leaders, our intention should be to represent the positive side of judgment, to focus on the insights we can learn from others, and to seek understanding rather than disagreement. By observing our lives, relationships, and other encounters with discernment we can learn to understand alternative possibilities without passing judgment. The next time you find yourself passing judgment on others, re-frame your thoughts to becoming a more discerning observer. Choose to allow the constant stream of interactions in your life to work for you, not against you, by learning from them to better understand yourself and others.

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