Conventional wisdom exhorts us not to judge. “Everyone’s human”, “we all make mistakes”, “nobody’s perfect” go the bromides. Some put it more succinctly: “Judge not, lest ye be judged”.
This is plain wrong. Taken literally, the instruction not to make judgments is a recipe for failure and unhappiness.
You. Must. Judge.
You must be actively judging everything and everyone. How else will you decide what to do, how to act, and most importantly, how to interact?
How will a manager rate employee performance without judgment?
How will a coach assess a team without judgment?
How will you know whether you should deal with a person and how you should deal with them without making a judgment?
If a person by their actions proves themselves dishonest, you’ll rightly think twice before dealing with them. If a person by their actions proves themselves capable and trustworthy, you’ll rightly engage them. Judgment is what allows you to tell the difference.
Judgment does not mean condemnation. People do make mistakes, can make good, and can be forgiven. Judgment is still necessary.
Making a judgment does not mean pronouncing judgment. More often than not judgments should be kept to yourself. It’s called “keeping your own counsel”, and good leaders do it.
Making a judgment can be suspended when more information is needed. Sometimes you need to wait, or look for more information.
And… you should always judge others innocent unless and until they as an individual give you reason to judge otherwise. Never pre-judge.
Especially: don’t judge an individual by the group that they belong to; race, gender, nationality, or football team. Statistical generalizations about groups are often valid, but they apply to the group, not necessarily to any one individual deemed to “belong” to that group.
In judging people, let Martin Luther King be your guide, and judge people by the content of their character, as revealed by their own words and actions.
First and foremost, judge yourself and the content of your own character. Would you deal with you?