We were smiling, laughing, enjoying a relaxed catching up time together around the table, with cups of tea, my two bright adult daughters and I. Shifting to national news, I said in a “this is driving me crazy” tone, “Can you believe these fear based commercials and how those people are actually falling for it, and are going to vote in the election?” “Mom, we have never heard you talk this way about a group of people before!” my daughters exclaimed. Time to flip my judgment! (yes, that is me in the photo, flipped upside down with a different perspective in a yoga class in Thailand)

I was caught in the act of judging! Even though I am a coach and strive to approach everyone with unconditional positive regard and compassion as well as a Breaking Free from Bias author, I am human and additionally an ENTJ personality. J for judgment, which while helpful for looking at what can be further developed and making good decisions, can also get in the way and even signal biases we all have. Judgment shuts down the brain in .07 seconds! To hear the rest of the story including how I flipped my J on its head and returned to an open mind and heart for improved decision making and relationships, keep reading.

How did I flip my J on its head? Thanks to my daughters holding me accountable, I did what I teach others to do. Try it, and share your results!:

  1. Pause, take a few deep breaths
  2. Consider the person or group of people you are referring to and what you think you know about them: socio-economic, educational level, where they are from (region), occupation, appearance, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
  3. Ask: are my assumptions 100% true?
  4. How could my assumptions get in the way of my thinking, our relationship?
  5. What assumptions, bias do I want to update?

Tool to pause to flip your judgment and bias

In my situation it would have been easy to keep “those people” in a remote box based on some media coverage. Choosing not to cut off half the population,  I was aware that some of my friends and university classmates were supporting a candidate I did not believe in. From there I could implement ACHE’: awareness, curiosity, humility and empathy. I had become aware of my assumptions and I could get curious about why “those people” could be “buying into” the fear based commercials. What might they be afraid of? How might they see this candidate as their “savior”? What were my and my political party’s fears? How might we work together for a win/win with humility, knowing neither group was 100% right or had all the answers? Choosing to see “those people” or “others” as more like me and become more aware of our hopes and fears triggers more empathy rather than condemnation.

Note: in our fast culture we may be tempted to skip the first step, the pause, with deep breathing. The pause with deep breaking is so important because it actually shifts our brain blood flow from the reactionary back to the front of the brain, the neocortex, where it can be used for effective decision making. Presence Based Coaching author Doug Silsbee advised to practice deep breathing with centering ten times a day “it will change your life!” With frequent practice you can more quickly and easily access this centered, present state for better decision making and relationships.

We make hundreds of judgments a day, so what’s the big deal? Judging becomes a problem when we make hurtful or unfair judgments based on little evidence (or immediately, based on unconscious bias), resulting in shaming others as well as shutting our brain off to other possibilities.

“Within the first seven seconds of meeting someone, our brain makes 11 different decisions about them including their intelligence, socioeconomic status, education, competence and trustworthiness,” said corporate image consultant and personal brand strategist Anna Hinson. Imagine the impact on hiring, promotions, how you treat others and are treated, how this in turn affects employee as well as client or customer engagement and retention. “In fact, 60-80% of all difficulties in organizations come from strained relationships among employees,” Zeynep Ilgaz, Forbes. How to handle costly conflict is a frequently expressed training and coaching need.

Clues we are moving into harmful judgment that may include bias:

  1. Talking negatively about “those people”
  2. “Should-ing” or advice giving (implying you should change) without empathy
  3. Sighs or groans in response to behavior or appearance, or ignoring, avoiding
  4. Condemning something or someone as “bad,” “stupid,” “unworthy,” “deplorable,” etc.

Note: the last two can include self! Check and flip if necessary your judgments about yourself and others and be more compassionate.

Judgment shuts down the brain in .07 seconds (The Human Brain Book, Rita Carter) is being taught in medical school. Just imagine how dangerous it could be for a doctor to immediately judge a skin rash as measles without ruling out life threatening toxic shock or an allergic reaction. Unchecked judgments and bias can be equally dangerous to our relationships, decision making, and quadruple bottom line organizational results. I invite you to be aware of these clues and take action, including with a reflective accountability partner coach, leaders and coaches.

To your full potential, prosperity and peace,

Marilyn O’Hearne, MSW, MCC, LLC; CQ MCC

Leaders and teams, want to learn how to advance you and your organization through balanced judgment and clear decision making in our VUCA world? Apply for an Unlock Potential strategy session!
Coaches, check out your judgment in our How to Directly Communicate without Crossing the Line seven continuing coach education class