Saturday, May 17, 2008


I've noticed that I feel annoyed when other people tell me what I am feeling and thinking. One of my colleagues has made a habit of telling me "I know you were _____, I could tell". My internal response to this is anger, frustration, and defensiveness. Which ironically, she reads as evidence of her initial assessment. In turn, I feel even more helpless, stuck knee-deep in the muck of miscommunication.
Interpretations are judgments, and judgments are a trap. They limit our ability to remain open to reality, obscure the facts, color our sight, and attempt to force others into the story our mind is telling us. The mind is is tricky, ever searching for ways to keep us safe and comfortable. It seems to rely on signs and symbols to make sense of scary, unfamiliar experiences. It's easy to make a habit of judging and interpreting others, in an effort to maintain our own place in the world.
My life and all the baggage that comes along with it---my thoughts, actions, feelings, relationships, and understanding---are my own. And yours are yours. You and I have earned them, having walked around in our own skins, suffered, rejoiced, celebrated our triumphs, and grieved our losses. I don't truly know what it's like to be you. I can empathize, I can share of myself, I can listen to you---but until I walk in your skin and live your life, I don't really know what you are thinking and feeling. To say that I know what you are thinking or feeling is inaccurate and unfair, as it seems to indicate that I know you better than you know yourself. Therefore, my assessment (judgment and interpretation) is true. The thinking behind this is a bit elitist.
Having said this, I think it's important to ask other people for more information. I would feel differently had she approached me and said "I noticed ____, I interpreted it as _____, and I felt ____, could tell me what you were experiencing?" I want an opportunity to gather all the facts before I speak or act in a given situation. Instead of being angry at my colleague, simmering this anger until it boils over into the next encounter, I want to change the pattern of communication we seem to have developed. I guess I have to start from here, from within myself, since it's really the only reference point I have. I think this is respect based communication---respectful of both myself and the other. I think that this is perhaps the only kind of real communication there is.

1 comment:

Jeremy P said...

Have to let you know just how much I love your blog! I've read and re-read this post (Judgment) so many times. I couldn't help but share, so I sent it to some kindred spirits and they loved it as much as I did - one of them so much so that she left it up all day for her colleagues to read too! Please keep writing with your raw, honest and grounded approach: it's both an affirmation and an inspiration!
Thank you!