By Robert C. Jameson, MFT
A friend of mine once told me that next to every truth stands a lie, that one person’s ceiling is another’s floor, and that to follow a truth is like walking a razor’s edge—it’s easy to fall off in error. I find defining the difference between evaluation and judgment to be in this fine-line category. As I start to define evaluation, I feel myself moving over into judgment, and as I start to describe judgment, I move into evaluation.
So, what is the difference between judgment and evaluation?
Evaluations are positive. Judgments are negative. Evaluations help you decide what you want more of in your life and create a sense of connection. Judgments can create confusion and separate you from others. Evaluations are expansive in nature; judgments are constrictive. Evaluations give you freedom of choice; judgments limit your behavior and the behavior of others. Evaluations merely state what “is” in a neutral, objective manner. Judgments indicate an opinionated, subjective value. Evaluations can be seen as a mental or a scientific approach,while judgments are emotional in nature and often suggest a moral, self-righteous approach.
I would encourage you to reread that paragraph again. Go slow. Challenge it. Process it. What parts ring true to you? Wat parts stir some deep emotion? Obviously, I am encouraging you to move toward evaluation versus judgment. Challenge that.
“OK, enough comparisons and enough challenges,” you say. “What’s the difference between judgment and evaluation? I still don’t understand. How can I decide if I like something if I don’t have an opinion or a judgment about it? How can I judge whether it’s good for me or not good for me? I am confused.”
This confusion is the razor’s edge that I spoke about earlier. Discerning the difference between judgments and evaluations in some areas is very easy, while in other areas it’s very tricky. It’s something that you just have to play with and watch very closely. Let’s look at some examples.
Here are some statements that are judgmental: He’s ugly. I think she’s stupid. I am such a fool. Can you believe she’s wearing that dress? That guy drives like he’s half-asleep.
In each of the judgmental statements, the speaker is assuming to know something about something s/he does not truly know anything about, and the statement sounds very opinionated. Notice also that the speaker is placing himself/herself in a superior position. The expressions of compassion and understanding are not present. The general tonality is one of scolding or ridicule. The primary position is I know what’s right, and what you’re doing, wearing, or saying is wrong!
Here are some statements that evaluate: He’s six feet tall, and he weighs 95 pounds. Every time I ask her to do this task, I have to show her all the steps. I find I keep repeating the same pattern over and over again. The red dress she was wearing had nine yellow dots the size of basketballs, placed four inches apart. He drove his car down the freeway at 26 mph. I saw him pour a glass of milk into his gas tank.
In the statements above, notice that descriptions are expressed in detail. The adjectives describe very specific traits. An opinion is not stated, and the speaker is not running assumptions. S/he is just describing what is seen. There’s no rightness or wrongness presented. Everything is very factual.
You say, “Well, I don’t like red dresses with yellow dots the size of basketballs.” That’s fine. In fact, it’s good that you know what you like to wear and what you dislike. You enter into a judgment, however, when you state, “That dress is ugly, and anyone wearing it is stupid and obviously has no taste!”
And you might respond, “I know style. That’s my job, and I know that red dresses with yellow dots are disgusting and anyone wearing them or suggesting someone should wear them is crazy and stupid.”
Notice how this position creates separation? Notice the position of self-righteousness? Notice all the assumptions? Who is defining what is ugly and what is stupid? Whose taste of clothing is “right?” The above speaker is assuming s/he knows the “right” answer to all of these questions. Beauty, intelligence, and fashion are all subjective and relative to some arbitrary standard that someone has set. We have all been told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Judgments indicate a position of self-righteousness. The underlying assumption is that I am right and you are wrong, and that you must do what I do and must think like I think. If you don’t, well, judgment will be directed at you. Evaluations describe what you see, hear, or feel. They reflect an attempt to discover what works for you and what does not work for you. The underlying foundation is the knowledge and acceptance of what works for me might not work for you and what works for you might not work for me.
For the next week, watch how you describe people, places, and events. Ask yourself if you’re evaluating or judging what you’re seeing. How do you feel when you accurately describe what you see? How do you feel when you judge what you see? Be aware of how your body reacts. I would also encourage you to listen to how other people describe people, places, and events and watch how you react to their evaluations and judgments. You then might want to ask yourself which process, evaluating or judging, sets you free and allows you to create more of what you want in your life.
A Process of Getting Free From Judgments
- What do you judge about yourself or others?
- What do you tell yourself about the people you judge?
- What should/shouldn’t the people you judge do?
- Who taught you these rules?
- How do your judgments separate you from others?
- What do you want?
- What can you do to create what you want?
- Are you willing to take action? When? How?
- What can you do the next time you’re aware you’re judging?
- Is there anything else you can do to feel complete right now?
About the Author of this Article:
Robert C. Jameson, MFT
As a licensed marriage and family therapist, Robert C. Jameson focuses on helping clients understand and overcome issues, such as anger, hurt, depression, anxiety, love, relationships, boundaries and limiting beliefs, to name a few. During his years of private practice, Mr. Jameson found it useful to give many of his clients “homework” in the form of handouts to support their work while in session. The Keys to Joy-Filled Living was born from his handout of tried and true exercises and techniques.
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