Exercising Good Judgment

I wrote a post a couple of weeks back (The Cost Of Being Judgmental) that was in essence about how being “judgmental” interferes with our ability to learn and discover.  In that post, a blogging colleague that I respect a lot (Diana Schwenk at talktodiana) made a very astute comment that really got me thinking about “good judgment” and “bad judgment”.

Diana said:

“I think some judgment is necessary (one learns from past experiences), especially in a busy life or perhaps a busy life is an indicator that you have taken too much on.”

It’s true that there is a positive aspect to judgment, and even writing the word without the two letters “-a-l” at the end of it make it feel like a good word!  We use good judgment many times every day.

Sometimes that judgment is used in service of ourselves … what time to leave for work, what route to take, time to break for lunch, setting priorities, etc. Sometimes it is used in service of our organization in processing input and making decisions.  Sometimes we use it interpersonally, to interpret what we are seeing and hearing from others.

Sometimes we make judgments in a very short period of time. Other times we take our time, weighing our options and alternatives before we make our decision.  Still other times we can’t decide so we don’t judge, or perhaps we make a number of judgments that conflict making it difficult to decide.

Then there is that negative form of judgment I spoke of in my previous post.  The act of being judgmental of others so as to bias our view of things or perhaps even shut down our ability to take in new information.

What Diana really raised in my thinking was the relationship between two word pairs:

Learning and judging

Divergence and convergence

I think the first pair are more self-explanatory, and certainly I’ve said enough about judging in this post.  The second pair are interesting.

Divergent thinking
Divergent thinking

Divergence to me is about diverting our attention from what is in front of us and looking around for more possibilities.  It is about learning what our alternatives might be.  It certainly takes time to do, and that has an impact on how much of it we allow ourselves to do. It also might take us away from what we are familiar with, making us less comfortable and thus perhaps drawing on our courage or tempting us to make a hasty decision.

Convergence is about bringing things back to one place.  It is about decision-making, and using our judgment.  Convergence can be very appealing as it often represents the completion of a task, and a sense of accomplishment.  It allows us to get more done and moves us back into our comfort zone.


Convergent thinking
Convergent thinking

his thought about convergence is my own judgment on where I think Diana was going with this.  It is important to converge on decisions and to use our good judgment.  But in our busy lives we often feel compelled to do this quickly so we can move on to the next thing.  By doing so we may miss learning about some very attractive alternatives that might only be revealed by taking the time to think divergently.

So thinking divergently for a minute or two, what might our possible solutions to this be? Here’s some that occur to me:

  • What if we acknowledge any discomfort we may have with divergent thinking and do it anyway? Enter each opportunity to decide with the intention to delay the decision until possibilities have been explored, and then rely on our known strengths in decision making to make good judgments?
  • What if we were to recognize that we are always busy (indeed maybe we take too much on) and use that as an opportunity to delegate to others? Delegation doesn’t mean giving up control (although that can be part of it), so perhaps we could enjoy the benefit of other team members’ divergent thinking in the form of new possibilities before we jump in with our convergent decision-making skills?
  • What if we challenged ourselves to notice convergent or judgmental thinking as we go through our days and when we catch ourselves to deliberately replace it with a divergent or learning stance as an experiment?

Thank you again Diana for getting me onto this line of thinking.  The balance in it feels good to me.  What are your thoughts?

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Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

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