In the past month, I’ve spent much of my time working one-on-one with people from very diverse walks of life and with quite different needs. Even with the varied backdrops, a theme keeps reappearing: judgment. Self-judgment, judgment of others – that subtle process of forming an opinion that leads to even more subtle and often unconscious behavior directed at those we judge.
My work has always been about helping people change behaviors that are unproductive (and even destructive) in their relationships. Behaviors are tangible; they can be seen and heard. We can stop and listen to ourselves, or receive feedback from others, then make a choice to do something different and better. But if you have ever tried to act or react differently toward a situation or person that “pushes your buttons,” you know how difficult changing your own behavior can be.
Imagine one of those button-pushing people in your own life. Recall a touchy situation and then try to think of something you could have done or said differently. You may or may not be able to think of something. Even if you can, doing it is a whole different story. Right?
It’s hard to change how we act or behave because, if we really analyze it, we think our behavior is justified. This mind-trap is almost certainly being driven by a feeling. In a world where being busy is valued, rapid decision making is expected, and multi-tasking is rewarded, who has time to truly become present and feel? But that’s the key to the kingdom, so to speak. Lack of this simple presence can result in misunderstanding, or even disaster.
So take time out right now and get present. Take a breath, notice the sights and sounds around you. Recall the incident with the button-pusher. How does it feel to you? As you recall a past confrontation or presume a future interaction, what feeling do you have? What motive is driving you? Are you judging yourself or another, and if so, is it really fair and accurate? With new perspective comes transformation.
As I’ve done this work with clients (and myself) these last few weeks, we’ve unraveled many small mysteries that have led to breakthroughs in thinking and acting. Impatience led to inclusion, inadequacy morphed into acceptance, and a motive to highlight wrongdoing was converted into motivation to solve a problem. Small and incremental, one step leads to another.
Here’s another tip: be gentle on yourselves. When we take responsibility for how we behave in connection with others, there’s a tendency for more self-judgment. True responsibility includes conscientiousness in how we regard – vs. judge – ourselves.
Taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them. – Byron Katie.