Judgement vs. Assessment


Judgement is a symptom of a lack of an intelligent thought process.

Assessment takes time and critical-thinking skills.

Judgement is a knee-jerk reaction based on a superficial scan of limited information. It leads to drawing half-baked assumptions and worse, acting as though those assumptions were true.

Persons who tend towards judgement are usually those who 1) have led relatively insular lives and carefully keep it that way, for fear of the unknown and 2) tend not to clarify their assumptions, instead preferring to seek – any – validation, however flimsy, to support their half-baked assumptions thus maintaining their preferred illusions. Negative questions are posed, if at all, such as, “you don’t like punk rock, do you?”, forcing the person being asked to have to ‘defend’ themselves against a whole slew of pre-conceived notions, regardless of whether their answer to the negative question is yes or no.

Assessment, on the other hand is the intake of information and the setting aside of it, until more information is presented or can be drawn out by way of posing positive questions. If the same question is asked positively i.e. “do you like punk rock”, the person being asked can simply answer with the facts. They don’t feel judged or feel like they have to ‘explain’ their answer because it doesn’t match the answer the questioner was expecting. Careful that the positive questions aren’t asked with squinted eyes and changed voice-modulations, because then, despite the wording, they end up being a negative question.

To assess i.e. to be patient, to cross-reference, to accept that others have life-experiences that are beyond your own imaginings and that the permutations and combinations are endless, and that someone may be having a bad day (or life) and that their odd behavior has nothing to do with you, to avoid presuming to ‘know’ someone and making assumptions – and should any crop up – to first clarify them with honest positive questions and communication, is to be mature, intelligent and quite frankly, more civilized.

I once met this guy called Eduardo in Australia and every time he opened his mouth, I put on a patient smile and smiled and smiled and blew up with irritation inwardly, because it took him 6 hours to string together a sentence in English. But I didn’t speak Spanish or German or any language apart from English back then (even my Hindi only improved in Europe, not India). So, one fine day, we were making small talk on the way to or from someplace, and he began a sentence and then stopped midway. He stopped and turned to look directly at me. “You know”, he said, “I know you think I am ignorant and stupid. But I have a degree in can’t remember. In Ecuador I am respected and if we conversed in Spanish you would see I am as intelligent as you are. But I don’t speak English well, and so you assume I am stupid or less than you“.

What I did was pretty unenlightened. I scoffed lightly within at the protestations of the puny foreign guy, nodded politely with a smile, and walked off airily even as one of my famous eye-rolls had gone into motion. It was first in Germany, some years later, that I realized what he meant – how utterly disoriented I was and how dependent on the tolerance of the listener while I struggled in my broken German the first year and or two.

Worse, desperate as I was to speak English with anyone, I discovered that a good number of Anglo English-speakers often patronized me and spoke to me like I had just swapped my spear for a magical thing called a hoover. Around the two-year mark, I was finally able converse and function in German and not long after became more or less fluent in the language. But it took that much time for Eduardo’s words to come back to me, like a true life-lesson.  I am so grateful to him, because he made me humble, even if it happened some years later. I realized how often and how easily I would make assumptions about how much someone and I could possibly have in common or about our ‘social equality potential’, based on a few silly superficial elements – their grasp of the English language, their ethnicity, nationality, religion, age, education level, job, and so on and so forth.

Thanks to Eduardo’s honest bit of communication I left all that behind a long time ago. It took a lot of ‘active checking of myself’ every single time I encountered a person or text or song or whatever. But I kept at it and it worked.

Now, I notice every single time when a person does the same thing to me. It doesn’t happen too often, but I notice. And I wish to myself I had the courage to do what Eduardo did. Usually, I just feel a sinking feeling as I see the person preparing to reject me or blow me off, based on my appearance or an off-statement I made, which is on their lemming list of no-nos. I think the fact that I am an ex-lemming makes me bite my tongue. I haven’t found a way to haul them up because I always think of glass houses and stones. But that doesn’t help anyone now, does it?

I think I also fear, that were I to voice my opinion, I would come across as a whiny victim, and a person who has already written me off in their head in 2 seconds flat based on sweet fuck-all is also the sort who will immediately protest with a bunch of scripted empty statements that imply I have misunderstood or that I am being paranoid. It isn’t always racism (or to be precise, ethnic and cultural prejudices and pre-conceived notions), but if it’s a form thereof, saying so invokes outrage instead of serious consideration of the feedback they are getting.

Incidentally, I encounter the same thing with Indians and Europeans alike and find that English-speakers are the most guilty of this (as I once was). I wonder why that is?!

I feel things get worse when I dare to point out someone’s failings in this matter of judgments and assessments and that the outcome doesn’t really change for me..so it seems pointless. On the other hand, maybe speaking up actually is better – for me and for them down the road.

You know, instant initial impressions really are quite important, because intuition is terribly important. Nothing compares to intuitive impressions (another form of ‘snap judgment’) but it is both prudent and wise to take the time to substantiate them, with an assessment process.

Taking the time to assess and allowing the other party to be an active part of the assessment, ensures that any conclusions that are finally drawn are not comfortable re-validations of ill-informed beliefs, irrational fears, paranoia or suspicion. Judging is simply a tool to keep out that which you don’t want to deal with, because it might reduce your shine.

I simply adore being pleasantly surprised, even if it means that I was mistaken. This is why I tend to give people several chances and the benefit of the doubt for quite a while. I have had enough instances of happily realizing how wrong I was.

It is taking the time and effort to assess that allows this sort of epiphany at all. Had I judged them (like I would’ve earlier), I would still be walking around feeling shiny and oh-I-am-so-great, but with nothing but hot air in my head and not a noble bone in my body. I would’ve tuned them out like they were nothing and never discovered their stories, their ideas, their quirks.  I wouldn’t have experienced the delightfully humbling revelation, that me the great is a silly fool, and the person I was writing off, is actually pretty cool.

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