Sitting in Judgment

Why do we insist on sitting in judgment of others.  All the time.

We used to have to fill out these smile sheets when I was teaching a lot. It was a means for everyone to judge the instructor. Not the student. Just the instructor. They were ridiculous things. I researched the topic and discovered that they are totally meaningless. Notice I changed the tense of the sentence to the present from the past. They were useless then and they are useless now. We had to fill one out for the Art Therapy Moderator. Stupid things.

The research I did revealed some interesting bits of information. Amongst them is how quickly we make up our minds about each other. The first five minutes are crucial, and there is little you can do about it. This means that the students who are about to spend the next 8 hours with you have decided whether you are a nice guy or not by the time you have finished saying good morning. Nothing to do with your teaching skills. Stupid smile sheets.

I have read all sorts of things, including those theories of the 30 second elevator pitch. The theory is that you should be able to pitch your story to anyone in the time it tales to ride an elevator. Why in the world would you want to do this? Your story has surely more value than a 30 second pitch, and to a stranger at that. I realise that the idea is to be succinct. To have a clear understanding of what it is you do. Noting wrong with that. This theory just adds to the 30 second attention span that we are all developing. Short snippets of information, a la Tweet, as opposed to delving more deeply into a subject, or a company, or a person.

The actress Brittany Murphy died the other day. Young, beautiful, blond, and a Hollywood star. I had never heard of her. Read about it in the Globe and Mail. The paper allows people to register with them and add comments to all their stories. There always appear to be a number of people who have nothing better to do than entertain us with their inane opinions. None were positive, other than the few who offered some sort of condolences. Most were convinced that she had drug problems, and died of an overdose or further complications from the Hollywood lifestyle. One went so far as question whether the drug was cocaine or not. This at a time when no one was reporting much. The police were mute while they investigated, the family was not saying anything, and nor was the hospital. Turns out she died of a heart attack.

We all say things without knowing all the facts. We talk from a point of authority whether or not we know what we are talking about. We feel compelled to make sure everyone knows our opinion as misguided as it turns out to be. Making comments anonymously online does little to alleviate the situation.

I was reading an article in the Globe and Mail about Health Care. People felt free to judge others and their health related issues. If only people took better care of themselves, there would be fewer sick people in the world. No facts. No knowledge of the circumstances surrounding people’s health issues. I had to write in, asking that people not judge so quickly when they have little knowledge of the facts. In fact, the older I get, the more I realise that we feel free to make comments on subjects that we have little knowledge of.

I listen to the CBC. They have a number of call in shows. I have called in once. Never again. We all talk from a point of ignorance. Regarding eHealth, $1 Billion wasted. Not true. There was a lot of very fruitful work done. We will only know how much was wasted once a full audit is carried out. In the meantime stop talking about it. I read an article that talked about the simplicity of creating a database for eHealth. Ignorant columnist. Databases are difficult to create. Specially one that has to be scalable to meet the needs of about 13 million people. Let us use the system pioneered in Alberta they say. Articles have pointed out the shortcomings of the Alberta system, and how it will not meet the needs of Ontario. Alberta has 3 million users. Pay no heed, keep talking from a position of blissful ignorance.

And so we judge. She is too fat, too skinny, too blond, not blond enough. And so it goes.

Every comment you make about someone is derided by others as being judgmental. Specially if it is negative. Chinese are bad drivers. I am not allowed to say that anymore in front of Janet. It is derogatory. But saying something positive about the Chinese is OK. They are great business people. Janet and I had a long discussion about this. It does not help that we live around the corner from a Chinese community. I asked her why we are considered judgmental when we say something negative, but not something positive. I am still waiting for an answer. I am puzzled by this.

A close friend once remarked about how quickly I come to conclusions about people. She put it down to the extensive traveling and displacement our family has gone through. I did not say much about it. Seemed to make sense. Except that we make up our minds in the first 5 minutes. I was not so unusually speedy after all. I do make up my mind quickly. So does the rest of my family. We come across as harsh and judgmental. Give them time to prove themselves. How much time? What does proving oneself mean? Why do they have to prove themselves to me? Does this mean I have to prove myself to others? Why? Prove what? To what end?

The only person who can judge us is ourselves. Even then, we are poor at it. We often undermine our own capabilities. We waste a lot of time and energy on judging one another and people we do not even know.

I go shopping with Janet a lot. She does the shopping. I take pictures, or engage in a favourite activity. People watching. I am fascinated by people. The way they walk, talk, stand, sit. How women can rarely pass by a mirror without adjusting their hair. The body language is amazing. The insecurities, even in this very public domain, is flabbergasting. We are very uneasy in our own bodies. This appears to be true regardless of culture, I see the same things in other cultures when we go traveling. Every once in a while, you see someone who is very sure of themselves. It is like a breath of fresh air. They tend to stand straight, head held high, walk with confidence, and are oblivious to those around them. No one matters but them.

We are complex individuals.

4 Responses to “Sitting in Judgement”

  1. I remember reading, in some psychology class or something of the like, about how important first impressions are. The study proved, apparently, that one's initial judgment of someone was so rock-solid that even if that person were to later perform in complete antithesis to your judgment, your opinion would remain unchanged. The example used was trust-worthiness. In the study, people who formed an initial opinion of someone as trust-worthy continued to hold this opinion even when, over a period of time, that person proved unreliable or acted in untrustworthy ways. The opposite was also true–if one's first impression was that someone was untrustworthy, even continued trust-worthy behaviour could not budge the initial judgment.

    If I recall correctly, the conclusions of this study tied into something about how it is (or was?) important for humans to be able to form quick opinions about other humans.

    I find it all fascinating. I was interested by your bad-driving, good-business conducting point. I'd agree that, generally, we are not 'supposed' to cast negative judgments, but positive ones are 'allowed'. Of course, both judgments are wildly general and should be equally dismissed as so, no matter their positive or negative slants.

    There is so much to say about your posts, as always! I think you are right about those who are comfortable in their own skin–you can see it right away. And in my experience, being comfortable in one's own skin has very little relation to how one's body aligns with what our society deems beautiful or sexy.

    Finally, and most importantly, much love and I hope to see you soon!

  2. Hello Farokh,

    Good topic here. Regarding surveys, they can be very constructive or very detrimental and they take time and one's patience to fill out. I remember the hospital sent me a survey on their Emergency Dept. services. I guess when they see the same patient frequenting that dept. , they figure that patient could provide some valuable input. The first time I received it, I let it lay dormant on my buffet as I was not feeling up to the task. A couple of weeks later, the same survey arrived in my mail box so I proceeded to fill it out. Now, I had duplicates of the same survey. Here's the story. The first time I filled it out, I checked many 'unhappy' boxes as I was reduced to tears at the emergency. My daughter was with me on one occasion. At that time, we as patients sat or lay for hours….not knowing why we weren't being attended to while the staff seemed to carry on with trivial conversation and jokes. Also, after waiting for hours of not being able to eat or have some caffeine, one gets migraines. After I finished the survey , I decided to leave it for a night or two and re-read what I had written and checked. When I went back to it, I had a different mind set: I decided to re-do it and to give constructive comments about how they should give all patients that arrive in the night time or early morning……breakfast (like a tray) with coffee or tea. People get too low in their energy and get headaches. I also wrote a comment that "Yes, I would refer people to this hospital, if they listened to some of the constructive criticisms, and made some changes for those waiting for many many hours in the ER."

    As it turned out, I had to use the ER again, (5th time last in 2009) for the flu and fever while I was receiving chemo. They treated me like Royalty. They fast tracked me bec. I was a chemo patient, they brought the x-ray people to me with the machine bec. I could hardly sit up, and they brought me a tray of breakfast with tea…..(toast, jam, cereal, some eggs, juice.)

    Therefore, I conclude surveys can be helpful if you take the time to be honest . Why else would they mail out 2….with twice postage….etc.?

    • Surveys are fine, specially when designed well and responded to. Smile sheets are horrendous. They accomplish nothing. Would you have rated our moderator differently if you had to do one of those every day after the session? Are you under subtle pressure to give the guy a good rating because you might run into him again in the halls? Smile sheets do not ask enough wuestions, and the wuestions they ask are trite.

      Well designed surveys are a pleasure.

  3. Mr.Farokh,
    how are you doing , we all miss you at utsav, please come over whenever you feel good we are really looking forward to see you.
    utsav tea,

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