Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A question

Is there a difference between judging someone and speaking truth to them?

6 comments:

Mandy said...

I think there is but it is hard to make sure the person you are talking to knows that. I think that is why a lot of people don't speak the truth to others b/c they are scared they will sound like they are judging that person instead of loving them. I think trust and the relationship you have with that person plays a big role in it.

Matt said...

If you figure out how to let people know 'the truth' without sounding like you are judging them, let me know.

I have the problem that I naturally tell people my opinions without thinking about the impact. I'm sure I have offended more than one person. Luckily, Erin is nice enough that people stay friends with us even though I might offend them occasionally =).

george said...

I'll definitely go with the "yes, but" theme that's developing here.

A "truth" is generally held to be something that is "a fact" or "real"
( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/truth ). [ To complicate things, there are all sorts of philosophical arguments about how truths come into being
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth ). ]

A "judgement" is essentially an opinion
( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/judgement ).

So we have "fact" versus "opinion," which some (most?) people recognize.

I think the problems Mandy and Matt refer to come from either how the truth is presented by the speaker or how it's interpreted by the listener.

I might say "There's an inconsistency in the reasoning Matt presents above. He says that he doesn't know how to tell people the truth without sounding like he's judging, but then goes on to say how he often gives his opinion (ie, judgement) without considering the impact." How received: I see this as truth, and don't mean to make a judgement, but Matt (who doesn't know me) might read judgement into what I just wrote (eg, an unstated "what an idiot"). How presented: If I actually spoke the words to Matt, I might do so in a tone that really does convey an underlying judgement - we've all experienced this, I think. Note to Matt: I really mean no judgement here.

Same problem can occur with the "simple" statement "SUVs use a lot of gas per mile compared to hybrids" when made to an SUV owner. It's true, but an implied criticism might be felt by an SUV owner (esp if the speaker is a hybrid owner). I'm definitely with Matt here - if you can find a way of stopping the listener from making that leap, please let me know. I don't think you can - that person's response is not in your control.

traci said...

ding ding ding... George, your words are very insightful

I think Mandy's point about the relationship you have with the person in question is a key element to how the other receives your statement (truth or judgement).

Its easy to take things personally myself and maybe that is a good starting place in teasing this out. I can start considering how I respond to other's statements that may be meant as truth.

But, if I am honest with myself, I may very well mean to judge through the guise of "truth" sometimes...

Another sticking point comes when we are talking about more than one person. For example, If I make the statement that SUV's use more gas and the statement that we are experiencing global warming. Am I asking others to reconsider their car choices? (truth or judgement?)

It gets even more tricky when I talk about war... should we kill others ever? I guess my opinion on that is a judgment according the definitions George gave, but what if I see my opinion as truth? Maybe thats another sticking point.

george said...

Traci said ... but what if I see my opinion as truth? Maybe thats another sticking point.

Sticking point indeed - quite an understatement, that. I think this is what you'll find behind many of the hot button issues in American politics ... abortion, death penalty, gay marriage, immigration, war. If not seeing a judgement as a truth, then different definitions of what a truth is. Very, very messy. Makes the adage "be slow to judge others" ever more important, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

i think it's okay to share your "opinion" and just state that it is your opinion or your perspective. i'm glad other people have shared their opinions and perspectives with me even if i didn't always agree with them. what i usually find is that there is always SOME truth in there that i needed to hear. i like the al anon AA philosophy that says"Take what you need and leave the rest."

mama