Convening and Judgment

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Photo Credit: Craig Neal

Have you ever been judged? I know the answer to that, because we've all been judged. We're judged every time we walk among others. For the very same behavior or characteristic we can be judged positively (especially by our moms!) or negatively (as by our arch nemesis if we have one).

My own judgments are both involuntary and continuous - like breathing. Sometimes those judgments help me make sense of the world, but more often than I would like, if I have the opportunity to test the judgments I make, they can be amazingly wrong. That is, unless I have triggered the "self-fulfilling prophesy" kind of judgment.

We are all multifaceted human beings, and as such could display characteristics that show us to be shallow barbarians one minute and deep, thoughtful geniuses the next. People judge me (and others) using all kinds of criteria - by the expression on our faces, by the shoes we wear, by the condition or color of our hair, or perhaps by a blog entry. A momentary lapse of manners may be judged as refreshingly real by one person and as unnecessarily crude by another.

A challenge I struggle with sometimes when I convene or participate in a group is setting aside my judgment. A key principle in the Art of Convening for the Aspect of Hearing All the Voices is to suspend our judgment. But my brain is constantly making conscious and unconscious evaluations of the people I am with - and others often seem to be doing the same thing. Like a frisky puppy, judgment chews on my hand and vies for my attention, becoming more stealthy and present as I struggle to banish it.

"Judgment is not necessarily a bad thing, I've learned. I want to have and continue to nurture good judgment in my life."

So, rather than fight with my judgment and try to get rid of it, I have decided to treat it like a puppy I've brought along, but is not participating. I take the time to train her to sit quietly at my feet or under my chair, until my meeting or conversation is over - then I take her away with me somewhat better behaved, more informed and matured in some way.

Judgment is not necessarily a bad thing, I've learned. I want to have and continue to nurture good judgment in my life. But I do myself a disservice when I allow my judgment to be a barrier to relationship with others in my gathering. I notice that the Art of Convening principle asks me to "suspend" my judgment, not to eliminate it. My objective is to be present in my gathering as a place of "charitable interpretation" and openness to being surprised.

What are your experiences with judgment and The Art of Convening? Is your judgment like a puppy too? Do you have some tips for the rest of us?

Cynthia Wold, Co-author of "The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations"

NOTE: In the original post, Judgement was spelled with an "e" after the g. Both spellings are correct, but I was persuaded to change to the more popular Judgment.

"Merriam-Webster prefers judgment and lists judgement as a variant."