During an action-packed movie scene, it’s not uncommon to watch a getaway vehicle, being chased by seven squad cars, fly 300 feet off a bridge, land smack dab in the middle of a busy freeway going the wrong way and still make it to safety. Or, perhaps during a thriller an individual awakes to the sound of breaking glass, but rather than call 911, they creep downstairs to investigate sans protection while calling out, “Is anyone there?”
If you remained glued to the screen, you have mastered the art of suspending judgment. After all, not letting go of your critical mind and picking apart every scene would ruin the viewing experience. Yet, too many people refuse to leverage this same strategy in their personal and professional life.
Take a look at the following three scenarios to recognize your own ability to suspend judgment:
- While grocery shopping, you see someone without a mask and think, “Don’t they care about humanity?!”
- You see a group of six people gathered outside and immediately think, “They don’t look like they’re related.”
- While a colleague slowly figures out how to unmute themselves during a Zoom meeting, you think, “C’mon, get with the program already!”
If you can relate to any of the above situations, it’s time to shift your thinking. Here’s why. To enrich relationships, deepen connections and lower your stress, you must suspend judgment…especially in our new reality of remote working, stay-at-home orders and unpredictability.
Remember, every thought begins with you.
Your thoughts lead to feelings either increasing your anxiety or bringing you calm. Thoughts leads to behaviors. Behaviors that showcase your strong leadership skills or display your lack of leadership. Therefore, rather than react with doubt, frustration, annoyance or criticism, why not suspend judgment and choose to assume everyone is doing their best. And let it rest. Sure, we’ve all been told that assumptions can backfire, yet they also help you avoid inaccurate or unhelpful feelings that do nothing but drive an unnecessary wedge between you and another.
For example, if a colleague hasn’t returned your emails as quickly as you desire, here’s an opportunity to suspend judgment. Rather than immediately assume they are disorganized, slow to take action, or avoiding you, assume they’re doing their best. Perhaps they’re simply overwhelmed with their new home-schooling responsibility or a family member or friend has taken ill.
Suspending judgment within your own family works wonders, too. Not everyone’s definition of clean is equal, nor how people choose to invest their downtime. Although I personally wear news cancelling headphones and choose to gather my information online, my sweetheart prefers to both start and end his day watching news…loudly. Rather than suggest my way is healthier or more efficient, I allow him to honor his own path. Trust me, it’s not easy, but it’s my mind that dictates how I want to view the situation, and I prefer a joyful relationship over one filled with frustration, misery or negativity.
While you’re at it, why not suspend judgment when it comes to your own self? After all, you are learning how to navigate in a world you have never experienced before. You are learning how to be productive, focused and effective in an environment riddled with ambiguity. You’re learning how to lead and be present for others in a new high-tech, high-touch, but “don’t touch” environment.
Why not choose to be understanding, empathetic and compassionate rather than critical? Why not choose to assume that right now, everyone is doing their best? In the process, you’ll be exercising the invaluable, connected leadership skills of empathy, understanding and compassion. And who can’t use more of that right now?