Empathizing or being Judgmental?

This revelation came to me when I talked to a friend of mine — Ridho, a Psychology undergraduate student — who told me that I was being judgmental while I thought I was trying to empathize. It was related to my habit to think of what may cause a person to behave in such way, in order to understand their behaviour.

For example, I was disappointed of my subordinate who was being unresponsive to me. I then thought he was unresponsive because he just had a newborn which may get him occupied. This thoughts helped me to empathize and put less expectation towards him. However, Ridho told me that me assuming that he was unresponsive because of his newborn is already a judgmental act. He told me that if I wanted to be a non-judgmental person, I should have just accepted my subordinate the way he is.

“The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little. We often fail to allow for the possibility that evidence that should be critical for our judgment is missing — what we see is all there is.”
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

From the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, I learned that human tends to use their intuition to judge, even with very little knowledge and data points. We let our System 1 — that operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control — to take control of our judgement which usually leads our behaviour to other people. While actually if we use our System 2 — that allocates to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations — we may not want to judge as quickly, with very little or no evidence.

Just like my case with my subordinate, the fact that he just had a newborn and the fact that he was being unresponsive are two different facts with unknown causality. Yet, I concluded myself that the two were — not just correlated — but causal to each other. It was my System 1. While if I used my System 2, I would think more logically that maybe it was my subordinate capacity and he may improve (his responsiveness) if I gave him the right feedback. Which then he did improved.

From this I learned that trying to assume things as the reasons behind people behaviour did not really solve any problem, neither gave me better judgements. If I try to be neutral and accepting, I may think more clearly and focus on how I can make my work better. Which then I applied by giving my subordinates feedback and saw his improvements afterwards.

This also reminds me of what my meditation facilitator — Bentara Bumi — always says during our Tuesday stress release meditation, “Accept that everything is already as it should be. Accept that they are already as they should be.”. Sometimes we are too focus on finding reasons or excuses behind everything, just to make us feel better. Yet, we’re not really accepting.

Like when we just lost our wallet because we accidentally dropped it, we may feel upset and sorry. However, if we lost our wallet because somebody stole it, we may feel even worse. Both events are actually equal: we just lost our wallet. No matter what’s the reason behind it, we should have felt equally the same, if we focus more on the neutral event and not the causes or reasonings.

“Accept all people and circumstances in your life, exactly as they are. Take responsibility for your life without blaming yourself, knowing that everything is as it should be.”
Deepak Chopra, The Law of Least Effort

It may not be as easy as it sounds — to accept people the way the are without considering their background story. Yet it does give more peaceful way of thinking. We will no longer judge people for what they do and put labels on them. We will no longer treat people based on our judgement but with love, as we accept them the way the are.

WYSIATI — what you see is all there is. From Daniel Kahneman’s book I learned to use less of my intuition to judge. Because what I see is all there is. There’s no need to judge. From Deepak Chopra and my meditation group, I learned to empathize out of love. Because everyone is already how they should be and I (learn to) accept it.

“Know that people are doing the best they can from their level of awareness. Accept people for who they are and always be ready to forgive.”
Deepak Chopra



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