On non-judgment during trying times

These are challenging times for all of us who are braving the constant onslaught of current events.

I have a dear friend, an amazing attorney and child advocate, who just doesn’t “do the news.” It allows her to have some necessary control over her psychic life to keep herself healthy for her own intense work in the world.

But that won’t work for all of us. We each have to find our own way of dealing with everything that’s happening in our cities, in our countries, in our world during these wired times in which we easily get word of it, whatever it is, immediately.

And currently it’s a lot.

Yes. Once again with feeling: we’re all going through a lot just being emotionally present to so much that’s so big and so painful and is happening so fast and unrelentingly.

Yesterday I saw my neighborhood grocery store check-out helper, a dignified African-American man about my age who hails from Brooklyn but lives here in L.A. these days. It was just after the shootings in Dallas, and clearly we were both feeling low. We didn’t even try to make small talk. Today I saw him again, and we each understood wordlessly, while double-teaming the store code for Persian cuces, that the other was doing better. It’s a process.

And I’ve been reflecting on non-judgment. It’s an essential part of coaching others, with the goal of avoiding laying our interpretations of motivation and meaning on them. It’s about creating space for others to truly “show up”, free of our type-casting or expectations, and tell and show us who they really are.

My current personal mental health discipline is to remember that it’s important outside the coaching relationship, too.

And yes, there are those who in certain matters really do feel like strangers to us, whether in our lives or beaming through our devices. (Think extended family + politics.) We truly may not be able to relate to where another seems to be coming from. And then of course the truth is that we don’t really know. It would take real time, patience, and work to know, if given the opportunity, and armed with the capability.

So in whatever types of relationships we’re in, and especially as observers of current events, how can we hold empty space—rather than filling it with our assumptions or our fears—in which our fellow humans are the complex, multi-dimensional central characters in their own poignant, perhaps even tragic life stories? How can we avoid making snap judgments that in effect mean we’re writing their stories ourselves through the point of view of our own filters, beliefs, interests, and issues?

I’ll make a case for not assuming we know the motivations or mindset of others. For instead compassionately witnessing this troubling season with as much heart and soul as we can muster. I’ll make a case for each of us being our own personal best in it, however quietly, while benefiting from some intrinsic meaning through that commitment. Through that discipline.


Coach Teresa Young works with clients to accomplish their passion-based goals in healthy, soulful new ways. She coaches by phone, in person, and via Skype outside the U.S.