Early in my life I made a conscious choice to wait until the next time I meet someone before I form an opinion of them.
My reasoning was that people seldom show their true self in public. Add to this that we all have different social masks we wear, depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Later I learned that we are all multi-dimensional. Assessment tools like the MBTI and Profile Dynamics confirm that we cannot be put in a singular box that says: “This me – I am xyz”. We always have to say: “This me – I am X and I am Y and I am Z”.
This reasoning lead to a habit of just observing people and allowing them to be who they choose to be with me. Allowing for the fact that some people will present an untrue persona to me. I just gave them the benefit of the doubt. Mostly I found that people would trust me and show me the beauty of their true self and sometimes we went on an exciting journey to uncover and create a beautiful self.
Unfortunately this same habit also leaded me to be to be conned and manipulated to give more than that which was good for me. This naturally led to a reconsideration of my initial choice. This causes a dilemma.
On the one hand the advantage of the first choice is real and not negotiable. On the other hand I would like to be a bit wiser in dealing with strangers. So – to learn how to judge people without judging them is the objective.
My first hurdle is the concept of judgement. My mental maps around the term tend to be negative.
To judge someone has the connotation of being critical and condescending. Two character traits that do not sit well with me. To be critical is not all bad, but to be condescending is. Being condescending is a negative and ineffective defense mechanism. Ineffective because we usually judge people by the same standard we judge ourselves. We tend to project the negative elements of ourselves onto others. This process mostly happens unconsciously.
To start with the process of solving the dilemma, I thing we need to reappraise judgement.
An alternative is to see it as a simple assessment. (Thanks Louis for this insight). An assessment is an observation combined with an opinion. Observation is good. It comes from a mental map that states that anything is possible and everything has a right to be as it is. It acknowledges that we are simultaneously apart and part of what we observe. Apart, therefore we can form an opinion. Part of, therefore we know our opinion is limited and must always be open for reconsideration.
Maybe, I have to make a new choice. One in the line of “every time I meet someone, I may assess them, and the next time I meet them, I may assess my assessment.