Friday, 29 April 2016

Deferring Judgement

Have you come across the fable of four blind men and an elephant? One man believes the leg he is grasping to be a tree. The second man is sure that the tusk he is holding is a spear. A third is convinced that the writhing trunk he is touching is a snake. The last, feeling an ear, tells his companions that he has found a fan. If only the men had waited a bit and pooled their knowledge, they might have been able to make sufficient connections to realize that they were, in fact, dealing with an elephant.

Being able to defer your judgement, not jump to conclusions, is a useful attribute to have if you wish to improve your mind. In today's judgmental society, it often seems as if you need to have a smart answer to everything. Not being able to come up with an immediate sound-bite response can be perceived as a weakness. Yet this quality of delayed judgement is exactly what many complex situations require. It allows you to move beyond simplistic notions into more sophisticated ones. 

Tough problems take time to unpack. If you are too eager to solve them and strain away at the leash desperately trying to come up with an answer, your mind becomes brittle and binary. It can't see beyond the black and white, the yeses and nos.

May be there have been times when you have felt confused and quickly came up with an answer, but would have benefited from spending more time puzzling out a better answer? Or when you have been exploring a really difficult problem which may have had many different perspectives? Have there been times when you dismissed something as unimportant which subsequently assumed much greater significance in your life? Or when things have been difficult and you made an emotional judgement that you later regretted? By becoming aware of these situations you can consciously practise deferring your judgment the next time you are in a similar situation, and practice this response will become instinctive. 

It is smart to defer evaluation when working with others to come up with new ideas, for good reasons. First, if you jump in too quickly, especially with a critical thought, you are likely to make the contributor of the idea feel put down. This can evoke hostility or cause the person to withdraw from the discussion. 

Second, coming up with creative ideas is a dynamic, ongoing process. Ideas breed ideas. Often the better ideas come later as a result of earlier ones. By postponing judgment, you will enable yourself and others to go through this creative process. And third, if you are serious about developing your mind, then you may want to work on the personality which comes with it. People who never stop and think are hard work to be with !