Do you Judge or Join?
I recently spoke with a professional who struggles with pitching and how to sell herself. “I don’t feel at ease doing so” she said. “While I know my work is of value for my clients - even after a year they tell me how much they benefited from my facilitation.” An interesting conversation evolved to identify why so many self-employed professionals have trouble presenting themselves to sell their services. National culture, gender roles and personal issues play their parts. But the biggest constraint to success (to your own standards) is very often the inner critic. It’s the little voice in your head, saying: “Nah, you can’t do that. It won’t be good enough. They’ll see you’re a fraud. They’ll judge. Better stay away from this endeavor.” With the best of intentions, this little voice tries to keep you safe and away from hurtful comments and harsh critics in the outer world. The little voice is right: those comments and criticisms occur. But harsh criticism comes from people who are just as scared as you are - who are criticizing themselves as well - because you can’t criticize and judge others without judging yourself - in one way or the other. They don’t have an accepting, compassionate attitude - to self and others.
The little voice
How we judge! We’ve been raised with judgments - and we think we need them to discern good from bad, and to feel good about ourselves. It’s a never-ending learning journey for most of us - at least for me. It’s okay to assess something - but not to judge someone. We have to come to terms with the little voice while we develop ourselves. The little voice is an internalized parental-teacher-authority, who keeps us safe - but also small, little, nondescript and judgmental toward others. It’s tough. It keeps challenging us, leaders, consultants, coaches, professionals. Margo Boster, OD-consultant and yoga teacher, shares an excellent article in Leadership & Change Magazine issue 11: “Self-worth is defined as the opinion you have about yourself and the value you place on yourself. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is a favorable opinion or high regard for something or someone. Self-worth comes from INSIDE – who we are; self-esteem comes from OUTSIDE – how we are doing.” Self-esteem is more conditional: it’s great when you did a good job, but what if you made a mistake? How quickly do you forgive yourself and move on? Do you dwell on judging and criticizing yourself? I love Margo’s conclusion:
I am not “better” than you; you are not “better” than me. Which is better – the orange or the lettuce? Neither – they both add value to different things. As do you and I.
Join - instead of judge
As we act on the outside, so we are on the inside - and vice versa. Do you judge your coworkers? Judith Katz and Fred Miller share the importance of inclusion to foster collaboration and to enable organizations to accelerate results. Judith: “When we feel judged, we act small and contribute less. When we feel we are joined, we can be big and contribute more.” Are you setting an example of a “joining” interaction within your team or are you displaying more of “judging”? You will identify a judging interaction when you or the other person in the interaction is being cautious, sizing up people, putting people in a box, and not giving the benefit of the doubt. When you have a joining interaction, you’ll notice that you or the other person is being open, leaning in, assuming connection and giving the benefit of the doubt. Oh, but it takes so much work on ourselves to become “joining”, to assess what could be improved but still accept things and people as they are - instead of judging, dismissing, distancing and shutting out. It takes inner work to soften the little voice, to make the harsh inner and outer critic kinder, more accepting and constructive. Critic and comments are useful - because we can always develop ourselves further - but in a “joining” way. Let’s not be arrogant know-it-alls who consider themselves to be seasoned consultants or senior leaders. Every human being can benefit from another perspective, from support, from new pathways.
A better world and a positive workplace start from this inner knowing: You are Good Enough. May the little voice encourage you: Yes, you can!
co-founder OCAI online and Leadership & Change Magazine