Good judgement skills are crucial in mediation and investigation. Misread a situation and it can be fatal. Act without prior consideration and it can destroy rapport. Misjudge parties and they may forgive you, but it will take a while before they trust you again.
There are many organisations where difficult, stressful situations are occurring almost daily – grievances, disputes, team breakdown, customer complaints – and organisations and people are rarely seen at their best during such episodes. Managers are called in to make judgements about problems that are ill defined, involve a wide range of different perceptions and are fuelled by emotions. If we use our judgement poorly, this worsens the situation.
Judgement is what happens before we form opinions or do or say something. Judgement is a dynamic process, not a static one. Many bad judgements are fixed, inflexible, and resistant to powerful new information.
There are two main ingredients to the judgement process:
- The consideration of information
- The application of experience and knowledge to the information.
So when we are given information, we need to exercise a considerable degree of caution to make sure we recieve it properly. This is because we are great at looking at things through the lens of what we already know: our personal experience; stereotypes and prejudices we have; our principles and values.
This can lead to a misperception of facts, feelings and priorities, as we respond from our own experience. We need to respond to the experience presented to us by others.
- Recognise and put aside stereotypes. They are shorthand, and help us only to judge someone’s facade
- Build our capacity for empathy. Accept there are different realities.
- Resist the temptation to get drawn in, or pushed away emotionally. Empathy is much more helpful for good judgment than sympathy or apathy.
- Avoid using “instinct” or “gut feelings”. We tend to remember the times we got things right by “instinct” and forget all those hundreds of times when we got things wrong, or when following instinct would have been disastrous. Use instinct as an initial assessment rather than a final judgement.
- Avoid making judgements under pressure. It’s fine to ask for more time to reflect.
- Stay flexible. Having reached a judgement don’t refuse to change it or back down if new information comes to light.