To prevent ourselves from spewing judgements and harm in productive relationships, traditional wisdom admonishes to “not judge.” But not judging is an improbable — if not impossible — action for all but the most emotionally and spiritually developed of us.
It’s my practice — and recommendation — to experience judgement fully. Then let it go.
Here’s an example from my own experience I invite you to make into yours. I recently trusted too much and found myself “holding the bag.” My first reaction was to get a little peeved. Then I remembered! The bag I was holding was evidence that I trusted too much rather than too little.
I trusted! So I congratulated myself. I knew this might be the best feedback I’d get in the situation. I felt better and was in a little more understanding frame. Then, one-by-one, I ran a complete audit of my emotions.
Remember that upsets are opportunities to learn.
But to benefit from upsets requires us to exercise our emotional intelligence with new vigor.
It’s our emotional intelligence that enables us to make distinctions around emotions and choose our responses. To make distinctions around emotions, we first have to examine them. The first emotion I identified was anger. I explored it, viewing it completely. I replayed it until I understood it.
I felt I didn’t deserve to be treated this way. And I probably didn’t. Then I saw that I wanted to “get even.” Getting even is a form of “laying blame.” Since it wouldn’t serve either party for me to escalate this situation, I decided the way to deal with my anger was forgiveness.
Who needed to be forgiven?
Well, the truth was that it was myself I needed to forgive. Once I completely sensed my embarrassment (that is, my own blaming of myself for making a “mistake”), my knee-jerk reaction was to protect myself from doing it again by installing a rule to never do that again. But, installing rules to protect myself only reduces my ability to respond because rules create inflexibility rather than response-ability (as do almost all such attempts to auto-pilot).
So I found the humor in thinking that I could ever protect myself from vulnerability.
Humor is a good response to embarrassment.
In this instance, I also experienced a sense of unfairness that I “couldn’t” correct because I had to tolerate this person because of who he was (fill in your own situation: boss, customer, teacher, coach, authority, parent, etc.)
Tolerating anything is a choice — my own choice.
And I’ve found tolerating something to be a poor behavioral choice because it only generates resentment, which further reduces my ability to respond resourcefully. Once I had audited my feelings and really felt their consequences, it was actually a short step to clear the judgements.
I decided I wanted to correct this relationship so I didn’t get a repeat of those feelings. And since there are only three things I can do in a situation I don’t like — live with it, get out, or change it — I decided it was up to me to respond in a way that would improve the relationship.
What you say and do when you’re left “holding the bag” is up to you. But remember your actual choices are to live with it, get out, or change the relationship. If you do want to improve your relationships, get started with this weeks 5-minute practice tip to help you chose how to feed others’ behavior back to them.
5-Minute Practice Tip
When your next upset occurs and judgement comes up, STOP. Then, with some imaginary popcorn and your favorite imaginary beverage, set up a 360 degree movie theater in your mind and view your emotions completely. Then, instead of making anyone else the “antagonist,” have yourself play all roles (hero, villain, etc.) and see what distinctions you can make. If you’ll make the effort, I’ll bet this exercise will create more productive and responsible relationships, as well as free you to breath easier and exercise your authenticity.
Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide. Build a responsible team (or family) and master your leadership skills with The Leadership Gift Program for Leaders.
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