We are all judgmental. Yup, that’s right. Judgements are actually kind of necessary. From a survival perspective, we need to be able to quickly judge things as safe or unsafe. Angry bear, unsafe, friendly puppy, safe. In survival settings, reacting from these evaluations/judgements can keep us alive.
However, when it comes to communication, while noticing our judgements is useful, reacting from them can get us in trouble. When we let our judgements run wild we often get worked up. Getting worked up like that can be exhausting and create a lot of disconnect with ourselves and others.
But what to do instead?
My partner and I are currently taking a year-long Nonviolent Communication course through www.nycnvc.org. One interesting experiment suggested in the course is to observe the behavior of people around you. If you notice somebody behaving in a way you don’t like, hint hint, you start to judge them. Ask yourself this question:
‘What need(s) is this person trying to get met through this behavior I’m reacting to?’ Click here for the Needs List.
Looking for needs instead of simply judging and reacting can bring in more curiosity and empathy. This doesn’t mean agreeing with or condoning certain behavior. However, looking at needs, instead of indulging in our judgements, can be a helpful step in shifting how we communicate.
Example: imagine you have a neighbor and when you say hello to them they don’t smile and often just grunt in response. What kind of judgements would you have? Maybe things like: they are rude or unfriendly or anti-social. Maybe those things are true, but equally they may be totally inaccurate and either way, they are likely to get you worked up in some way.
So instead, take a look through the Needs List and see if you can take some guesses at needs this person may be trying to get met. For example, maybe they are shy and have a need for space or understanding.
Notice any difference you feel in your body or nervous system when you focus on guessing at potential unmet needs versus on your judgements.
‘Needs’ are a concept from Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by Marshall Rosenberg. Over the next few months I’ll be sharing more posts related to NVC and communication.
If you are interested in this topic, I’ll be sharing these posts and other NVC and communication info in my private FB group ‘Creating Conscious Connection‘ Come on over and join me there! 🙂