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October 7, 2013


Which would you prefer hearing: “What you just did was wrong!” or “What you just did was different than the way I would have done it!”

I don’t think there is anybody who would truly prefer to hear the judgment that comes with the label of ‘wrong’ or any other word like it. Yet both comments can get the main point across which is that it may be a good idea to make some type of change.

The truth is that there is no strong value judgment imposed when we think in terms of ‘different’ as opposed to ‘right or wrong’ or ‘good or bad.’ There is a neutrality associated with the word ‘different’ that is blown to smithereens once a value judgment is imposed.

Yet so many times, people react with the value judgment. I’m human and also, I hope, a realist – at least some of the time – so I don’t think most of us can alter our knee-jerk reaction to things (in this case, the first though would include a value like ‘good’ or ‘wrong.’)

Swiss Neutrality

Swiss Neutrality

However, all that we need is a commitment to use a bit of restraint, and we can keep our ‘knee-jerk’ value judgment to ourselves, but respond aloud with the neutrality of ‘different’ instead.

When someone does something that we don’t find okay – we can feel as if it is wrong or bad, but we don’t have to say that out loud. We can say something much more neutral and non-judgmental by saying that the choice the person made was different than the one we might have made in that circumstance.

This is how it would play out in a real-life situation a parent might have. Tonight is your 12-year-old son’s night to make sure the dishes are washed. He hurriedly rushes through the motion because he wants to have time to play his video game. You are aware that the job was not done correctly and that the dishes need more of an effort in order to be done correctly.

Rather than making a judgment call or even just instructing your son to return and do the job over again, try framing it by letting him know you prefer the chore be handled differently – referring to the type of energy exerted and the finished product (the cleanliness of the dishes.) NOT a word about “RIGHT” or “WRONG” or “SHOULD HAVE” or anything else that imposes a value judgment of any kind.

Open Door

Open Door

Choosing to address a problem in this non-confrontational, non-judgmental way opens doorways to progress and change that might otherwise remain shut tight and totally unavailable to us.

So how about if just for today, we commit to using the concept of things being “DIFFERENT” if we find we don’t approve of them rather than voicing our disapproval and our opinion? I’m game if you are!

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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