A linguistic misunderstanding created much amusement over the weekend – and a memory to treasure too. My daughter had asked my husband: ‘What do you want for your birthday?’ ‘A lie-in,’ he’d replied, with the weariness of one who hasn’t slept properly in five years. Later, I asked her: ‘What do you want to get Dad for his birthday?’ ‘A LION,’ she replied, confidently.
When I’d finally stopped laughing, having watched him open his cuddly new lion with an air of bemusement, one thought struck me and stayed with me. Her complete lack of judgement. My daughter didn’t question or challenge her dad in his request, she didn’t ask him if he was sure, she didn’t wonder if she’d misheard. She simply accepted that this was his choice and it was not for her to project her own prejudices or beliefs onto his decision-making.
I don’t know when we become more judgemental, when we become weighed down by expectations that can limit our openness. But what I do know is that non-judgement enriches the experiences we have, frees us up to find new solutions, and empowers us to follow our goals and ambitions.
Non-judgement is an important factor in engaging people. After all, the very act of asking people what they think and feel shows that we are not relying on our own perceptions and understanding – we are opening the question up to gain that insight, trusting in the experiences and knowledge of others. When we are engaging people, how we ask questions is important too: the more open we can be, the less we shape the direction of travel of the feedback we get. And, then to paraphrase George Michael, listening to others – our staff, customers, partners, stakeholders – without prejudice. This can be trickier, but when we free ourselves of expectations, and disassociate personally from what we are being told, we can learn so much.
And this can lead to real innovation and creativity. When we ask, listen, and learn without judgement, we can do great things. We can shape new ways of doing and working – things that we might not previously have envisaged.
But perhaps where we use judgement most is with ourselves. How often do we think ‘I’d like to….’ but before we get any further throw a great big ‘I can’t’ in our way? How frequently do we stop ourselves taking a step forward towards our goals, our ambitions – our dreams – because of our own thinking errors, hurdles at which we stumble? How many times have we been offered an opportunity but said ‘no’ because we judge ourselves with limiting perceptions?
And it’s not just the judgement we use with ourselves. It’s the perception of how we might be judged: ‘what will people think?’ The fact is people aren’t probably thinking what we imagine them to be, and besides, what does it matter anyway? And yet, we let their perceived judgement stop us from taking a step forward.
Through non-judgement, we can hear more, see more, learn more, and enjoy richer, different experiences – and perhaps we can achieve the dreams we aspire to too.
And maybe, because of non-judgement, we can end up with a birthday present that we never knew we wanted, but which could not have been any more perfect.