We have a love-hate relationship with judgment. People universally dislike being judged, yet, seem to take pleasure from judging others. We cannot stop being judgmental — nor would we want to. Emotions, which guide our life, reflect our judgments. Without judgment life itself would not have survived. Evolving from the most basic approach / avoid survival response of a simple organism, emotions help us negotiate the Goldilocks zone of life. At a core level, an organism must maintain itself within certain parameters and out of this our values are born. Life necessitates decisions, and decisions involve judgment.
Relationally, our natural draw towards judgment leads to a form of communication that is debate-oriented. Springing forth from the natural sense that our perspective is the true one and our reflexive tendency to judge one another, debate naturally ensues. Each trying to convince the other of the truth that each sees so clearly. Neither really listening to the other, except to find weakness or opportunities to gain the upper-hand. The goal is to win, to be right and to have one’s truth validated.
Debate can be a game like dodge ball, with each side trying to hit the other without being hit themselves. Each focused on evading and maneuvering and striking a winning blow. Debate can also become a fight, with each side trying to injure or perhaps destroy the other. The stakes become much higher, our words become weapons, like rocks being hurled at one another. The more emotional charge behind the words, the more severe the damage, like force behind a projectile.
There is an alternative. What if rather than throwing our rocks at one another, we show them? A geologist showing you a rock brings out a very different emotional response than a fighter wielding the same rock. While curiosity might have killed the cat, it leads to a much less lethal communication style than debate. Curiosity engenders dialogue and mutual interest in understanding the other. Curiosity tempers our natural move towards judgment, and rather than already knowing the truth, it opens us to discover the truth. It reminds us that we don’t really know it all.
We are locked in a subjective reality that only feels objective. Dialogue is a form of communication that mirrors this understanding. If we are not careful, our self-protective emotional intensity will push us towards judgment, debate and possibly war. Diplomacy demands that we slow down and cultivate curiosity. Nurturing curiosity, nurtures dialogue which will nurture your relationship.