I can say “I like going to Whole Foods” kindly and simply, because I like looking at pyramids of lemons whilst picking up my citrus fruits.
Or I can say “I like going to Whole Foods” with disdain, as if your choice to not be at Whole Foods right now makes you lower than cockroach scum on the food chain. As if to say: My choices? SO MUCH BETTER THAN YOURS.
I used to judge everyone I met before they could judge me. It was a game I played in real time, passing people on the street:
…on and on, thinking of all the insults I could give in case those strangers insulted me first. I was beating them to the punch! Go me!
No one ever insulted me. No complete stranger ever appeared out of the blue to call me names or question my fashion choices.
When people hurt me, it was those who knew me well, and it had nothing to do with something as simple to spot as a mullet or unfortunate shoes.
I was kindly called onto the carpet for this judge-first-lest-ye-be-judged attitude at a business retreat. I was invited to examine the sidecar message I was sending with everything I said: “My way is better than yours.”
And I wept. You can see that judgement? Worse yet, you can FEEL that judgement?
The coping mechanism I thought was invisible to everyone around me a.) wasn’t invisible and b.) wasn’t working.
In fact, it was screaming at every stranger in my path from a hundred yards off. I didn’t want to send that message any longer. I wanted to be sweet and kind, vulnerable and open, without assuming everyone was out to get me, judge me, insult me, or say my way was wrong.
Something fell away that day.
Sure, I still think some t-shirts are ugly and some haircuts are unfortunate. But I’m able to quickly put those in the ‘opinions’ box in my head without making the other person wrong for wearing a Creed t-shirt or reading an Ann Coulter book. Different strokes for different folks.
If you’ve ever done the defensive game of hiding behind judgement, snark gun loaded and ready to fire, I dare you to put it down.
Pick up your kinder tools of connection and see how they do.
A soft smile.
Seeing without making any simple choice wrong.
Jeans don’t have a code of ethics.
Flip flops aren’t a political statement.
No one is writing a list of your wrongs at this moment.
When you see people as people — not as insults waiting to happen to you — everything changes. You open in ways you couldn’t have imagined. You soften.
When your brain gives up the offense, you can see people clearly. Maybe for the first time.
Sure, they’re wearing socks with sandals and they’re plagued with awkward tan lines in the middle of summer.
They’re also glorious and beautiful, ripe with potential connection.
They aren’t out to get you. (They aren’t.)
When it comes to business, this whole seeing-people-clearly thing means you’re better able to see the needs you can meet. You’re also able to see the problem behind the problem: the real reason someone is having a meltdown or putting off buying or otherwise engaging in behaviors you would have preemptively insulted just a few days or weeks or months ago. Without the judgment, you can see it and address it. Gently and gracefully.
Further. You feel different. To yourself, and to other people.
Your clients are willing to let you stand beside them, shoulder to shoulder, instead of across from them like some business version of Mortal Kombat gone wrong. You’re privy to secrets no one would have told you before. They’ll lean in where before they would have walked away. They’ll buy where before they would have run screaming without saying a word.
This habit change is a subtle one. It’s won’t be touted in all those 7 Steps to Business Success books or 83 Days to the Next Level for Your Business programs.
It’s an internal armor, falling to the wayside. It was designed to protect your tender bits, and instead it cuts off the blood supply keeping that keeps those same bits alive and feeling.