How to Know When You’re Crossing the Line — and What to Do about It

I remember the first time I felt judged — and came up wanting.

My grandmother looked at my 10-year-old self, shook her head and said, “It’s a good thing you have a nice personality, because you’re not very pretty.”


(Now you have a hint about why, for years, I judged right back and called her “My evil Grandmother Marcia.”)

As leaders, what we say carries more weight: the kind that can feel crushing to others.

How can we tell that we’re moving from sharing factual information or useful insights into treading on others — to everyone’s detriment?

Here are three questions to ask yourself to avoid acting judgmental.

Some people are judgmental because they want to punish us. (Slide Marcia in that slot.) Others have no filter and just say whatever comes into their heads, not intending — or even noticing — that they’re being hurtful or unfair. Still others feel defensive and say things to throw the rest of us off balance so we won’t notice their lack of confidence.

Whatever the cause, this pushes our buttons and makes us reactive.

Take that extra moment and breathe. Pay attention to whether or not you’re being triggered and feel like taking someone else down a peg.

Being judgmental may give you a momentary sense of victory. More likely, it will cause damage you’ll have to repair and make it harder for you to work with your people.

Don’t give them a reason to lump you into that “evil” category with Marcia.