Why does everyone else suck?

judge everyone

Why you judge everyone negatively and hate yourself for it

Forget the Golden Rule; most of us walk around constantly judging everyone and everything around us. That uncontrollable voice has an opinion about everything. We often feel guilty wondering how we can be so shallow and “say” these things in our minds. 

I know. I used to do this far more than I do today and was not proud of it. I was constantly scanning for failures of my fellow co-workers and friends, eager to find evidence of my own superiority. I felt bad about this habit and knew it couldn’t be good, but I still did it to make myself feel better about my own insecurities. I can see this all clearly now and how it got in the way of relationships and even career success. The only solace I can take now is that I was not alone. Most human beings suffer from this same ugly cycle of reactions.

There is an evolutionary reason for this. Early man was born and lived in a dangerous time. Every rock might hide a tiger. Every person might be a cannibal. Every berry might be a poison. 

We look for what doesn’t fit and what doesn’t meet our lofty requirements:

  • “Why is she wearing that dress?”  
  • “Doesn’t he know his belt doesn’t match his shoes?” 
  • “How can anyone stand listening to that woman laugh?” 
  • “Wasn’t that thing he just said a bit inappropriate?” 

These inner judgments range from the petty to the actually valuable like in these examples: 

  • “That guy in the Toyota is driving like a crazy man. I better not pass him.” 
  • “This chicken smells funky. Maybe it’s better to toss it.”
  • “That water looks deep, but there may be rocks underneath. I better not dive in.”

In coaching, we call the second group of examples, “blameless discernment.” There is enough that is rational and reasonable for you to listen carefully to the voice in your head. It is telling you something that might save your life or help you avoid pain. 

However, in the first set of examples, lies experience that disconnects us from the things and people around us. 

We as a species categorize all the time. That’s what the brain does. Everything provokes a response. Every repeated stimulus becomes a meme. By five years of age we have everything sorted out. We judge quickly and without a lot of thinking. When the sorting and naming becomes negative it is a sign that our own judge is hurting us and the people around us. 

Imagine that you have a meeting today. You arrive three minutes late and almost everyone is already there. You’re actually happy when a co-worker arrives five minutes late and you’re able to say to yourself, “Jim must be pretty disorganized. He’s always late.” 

Or you go to a party. Everyone is having a good time. You go to grab a beer and the only beer available is a domestic beer you haven’t had since college. You don’t have any parties of your own, but you’re amazed that someone would hold a party without buying better beer. 

Or in a common situation, you curse at the driver going slowly while looking for a parking space, perhaps even honking or tailgating, only to replicate exactly the same behavior when looking for your own space just five minutes later.

The comedian George Carlin used to have a bit called “Idiots and maniacs.” His observation was that if you were behind a too-slow-moving car, the other driver was an “idiot.” If, on the other hand, someone was behind you wanting to go faster, they were an “maniac.” The name for the other person was dependent on your perspective. And of course, the “you” in the story was never either the idiot or the maniac.

When we continuously judge others, it’s because we need to counterbalance what our own judge is saying about our own dreams and failures. Everyone else sucks because our own voices really feel that we suck. In the worst version of this some of us walk around literally sickened by the humanity we see, all in an attempt to keep the inner critic from pointing the spotlight on our own faults. Can you imagine the sad, lonely life of the person unable to positively interact with a human being for fear of letting the critic change its target?

Luckily, there is a cure. 

The cure is empathy. 

It starts with empathy for yourself. If, through therapy or coaching, you can find acceptance and love for yourself with all your torments and frailties, you can stop the constant judging of others. 

When I lead my Positive Intelligence groups, we learn first how to be aware of the Judge. While we all have this judging presence some of us live with it constantly chattering the background with very little distinction between what is “me” versus what is the Judge voice. It helps to name it and learn how to recognize it. The Judge is not you, but it is inside you. 

Once we quickly train ourselves to be aware of that voice, the kinder, gentler process of forgiveness can begin. We learn practical ways to stop the Judge from overwhelming us with self-criticism and go back to its evolutionary role of protecting us from real physical or emotional danger. 

If you’re curious about how Positive Intelligence coaching might help you and advance your projects, schedule a 30 minute discovery session (no charge). If you follow the steps in the program, I guarantee you will have a fundamental change in your perspective or I will happily refund your investment. I offer traditional coaching sessions as well and you can book a discovery session (no charge) at that same link. 

Empathy is your greatest parenting tool

As a coach working mostly with dads, I spend a lot of time listening to fathers talk about frustrations with their kids. As a dad of two myself, I can relate. Those kids, who once were so hard to bathe, dress, and corral were at least easy to understand. Their needs were simple and for the most part, they did as they were told. Of course, most of what they had to do wasn’t very unpleasurable or complicated, so that made it easier for them.

As they grew into tweens and teens, things changed. Simple requests turned into negotiations. Negotiations turned into outright refusals and the possibility of full-on rebellion was often in the air. If you were lucky, these tense episodes didn’t last more than a few minutes. 

My now 21-year-old daughter attributes that to empathy. At every stage of their development, we tried hard to remember what it was like to be at their age. I guess we got right often enough that she remembers us at least having a little bit of a clue about what it’s like to grow up in the 21st century.

If you go through the Positive Intelligence course with me, we use a very powerful exercise to try to awaken your most important “sage” power, that of empathy.  The exercise involves finding a picture of yourself at a young age, say four or six-years-old. In a guided reflection, we ask you to look hard at that child’s picture and see the small person in all of his or her innocence, energy, and wonder. At this age, you likely had not yet experienced regret or disappointment. You were still your true full essence.  

Falling in love with this small child is central to first having empathy for yourself. If you can’t learn to forgive your own shortcomings and failures and love yourself at the end of the day, you can’t begin to push away the saboteurs that are the source of fear, anger, regret, disappointment, resentment and ultimately unhappiness. 

This exercise is one of the strongest in the program because it puts my clients into a non-judgmental frame of mind that only looks at the beauty of this small being. Once you can look at yourself this way, it makes it easier to look at others with a similar eye. 

For example, instead of seeing your arch enemy at work as a manipulative weasel, you can see them for what they are: a five-year-old with a beautiful, lively essence struggling with his or her own demons that are amplified when you fight them with your own.

This technique can be easier, more fun, and more effective when it comes to dealing with your own kids. 

Let’s say you have 12-year-old and a 14-year-old, classic ages for the onset of discord in the house. Suddenly, they are in their rooms all the time. What we call “disrespect” sometimes creeps into comments. They spend a lot of time on the couch, or scrolling on their phones. Do you wonder if they will ever get jobs? Or even remember to make their beds when they get older? 

You decide your kids are lazy. Or selfish. Or complain of as laziness or talking back as a lack of gratitude. Does that sound familiar?

Now, get out old family pictures of yourself at those ages.  What do you see? Do you see a fully formed 45-year-old dressed in the clothing of the 80s or 90s? More likely than not, those images conjure up memories of your own struggles as a tween or teen. You may remember the crushing boredom of middle school science class or the torment of the school bully. You probably remember feeling like your parents didn’t or couldn’t understand what your life was like. You might recall the panic of Sunday evenings trying to finish projects you clearly should have done earlier in the semester. 

Looking at these pictures, how does your perspective shift? Can you still be angry at your son for not taking out the trash? Can you see why your comments about your daughter’s clothing might be driving her crazy? Are you as worried that your kids don’t appreciate all that they’ve been given?

I’m not saying that taking a look at family photos means you absolve your kids of all responsibility and never ask them again to clean up their rooms. That’s not the point. But when you try to imagine what it is to be them at their ages, how can you not want to give them a big hug, like you probably would like to give nine- or twelve-year-old self. 

Why you don’t really need a coach

Like all coaches, I firmly believe in the magic of coaching. While coaches have many tools they can use to ferret out insights and accelerate action, there are two magical things that all coaches do that are so simple that they require no training at all. 

In fact, these two things are so valuable that we learn in coaching school (CoActive Training Institute in my case) that even the coaching session that only involves these two things can be transformative for a client.

The first of these two things is what we call “Level 3” listening. 

If you’re a human being communicating with other human beings, you most likely practice “Level 1” listening. 

Say you’re talking to Mary about her weekend. She is talking about her hike. You don’t really like hiking, so your brain is wondering when she will ask you about your weekend so you can talk. Or, you really love hiking and you wait for a moment when you can add in your favorite hiking spot. 

This type of listening is when you listen to the other person speak while you figure out how to interject your point of view. Or, you decide on how to change the subject to what you want to discuss. This is the type of listening most of us do all day, playing verbal ping-pong with friends and colleagues, waiting for our turn to volley.

If you are practicing Level 2 listening, you are focused entirely on the speaker. You hang on every word and you listen intently. This is rare in most daily communications. The exception is when a close friend is relating a personal tragedy or you are speaking with a dying loved one. 

Sometimes, coaches listen at Level 2. We are trained to listen intently and to ask the types of powerful questions that advance thinking.

But where coaching magic often happens is when the coach is at what we call  “Level 3” listening. This is also referred to as “global listening.”  At level 3, the listener is listening with their ears, eyes and other senses. He or she “feels” the situation, reads body language, senses changes in mood, and often intuits the right question to ask next. 

This type of powerful listening, which in turns provokes deeper questioning is part of the magic of coaching. 

The good news is that everyone can practice Level 3 listening if they try. Most coaches know the difference between Level 2 and Level 3. And with experience, find it easier to get into this level of listening and stay there without finding themselves drifting back to Level 2 or even Level 1.

You don’t need to be a coach to provide this type of empathetic listening to someone you want to help.

Why don’t we just provide that to our friends then? There are two reasons.

If you have coffee with a friend today and try to practice Level 3 listening, two things will likely happen. First, after about 10 minutes of you asking perceptive questions that get increasingly more probing and provocative, your friend will likely say, “Enough about me. What are you doing?”

Or, you might lose patience and still want to get in your one little tip about hiking. Level 3 listening requires a commitment on both sides; first for the talker to know that someone is there to just listen and also for the listener to be willing to maintain that kind of focus for long periods of time and over many sessions. 

You don’t need a coach for this. However, in the same way people sometimes say that therapists are just paid friends, coaches do have the training, temperament, and curiosity to listen to you at Level 3 with the objective of helping you advance your projects.

The second piece of magic is accountability.

We all make declarations of action to each other and to ourselves. When we write them down or announce them to our friends (as opposed to saying them in our mind), they have a better chance of becoming reality. 

When I was relaunching Pregnancy Magazine and had a million tasks to do to move the magazine from a print magazine to a website and digital versions, I found it hard to keep everything on track. It was easy to let to-do items slide since the list was disjointed and seemingly endless.

I tried repeating the old Chinese proverb “the voyage of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That worked a bit, but the journey of a thousand miles is a lonely road and it’s very easy to take that second and third step tomorrow, or the next day or week.

Enter an old friend with a publishing background. He was willing to chat with me for 30 minutes every week or so and ask me how I’d done the past week. He’d ask a few questions and add his two cents where it mattered. 

But his value was not in the publishing expertise he had as a leader in his field. It was in the magic of accountability. When I talked to him every few weeks, I knew it wasn’t some idle “someday I want to sail around the world” type of idle chatter. I was asking him to spend time focused on my project. I didn’t always advance everything we talked about, but I was ready for every call with a status report and also a desire to show I was doing my part of the work. 

The results for me were unquestionable. Not only did I feel motivated, I felt excited to show my progress to someone who was invested in my progress and success.

Again, you don’t need a coach to do this. If you can find someone who will get together with you every week or two to ask provocative, non-judgmental questions, you stand a greater chance of staying on track and advancing your projects.

A good coach marries these two necessary skills with the training, tools, and temperament to stay with you over time. A coach is trained to not only help you identify what to do next but to find the paths and choices that are most consistent with your values and personality. Staying on track is great for your to-do list, but every coach’s main job is to ensure that you are being pulled by joy and not pushed by fear or anxiety. 

I encourage all non-coaches to try these two things in their daily lives. First, attempt “Level 3” listening with your friends, co-workers, and family. It can absolutely do no harm and you may be surprised at their delight at being listened to in this way. Imagine how your partner would react to this type of attention? Or a co-worker with less experience in truly being listened to at work?

And for your projects big and small, enlist a helper friend. Even if you are only reporting your progress once a week by text you’ll find you make far more progress than if you’re doing it all alone. 

If you’re curious about how coaching might help you and your projects, schedule a 30 minute discovery session (no charge). I promise to listen intently and provide accountability steps that will move you forward.

New Positive Intelligence program for accelerated change

Do you hear too many voices in your head? Have trouble knowing whether you should listen to your “inner critic?” I can also tell you about my new program Positive Intelligence. Positive Intelligence uses simple cognitive therapy-based exercises, videos, and weekly group coaching to help you get your saboteurs under control so you can live a life of more ease and flow.

Why I hate being a coach

coach for dads

Okay, spoiler alert. I love being a coach. 

I love talking to people about the projects and challenges in their lives. I really do enjoy listening to a conversation in which my part is only about 10%. I like asking “powerful” questions. I love satisfying my curiosity at the service of helping my client understand his or her next actions. 

And I love it when a client has an insight that moves them to think about a problem in a different way or that motivates them in sometimes life-altering ways. When clients use words like “transformational” or “life-changing,” I get that satisfied feeling that most coaches were looking for in pursuing this career.

But with all that love, I hate the title “coach.” 

This is not uncommon among coaches, many of whom would probably like the credibility of an older term like “therapist” or even better, “Doctor!” While many of us have trained as long as many Ph.D. or Master’s degree-level therapists, we’re stuck with a moniker that comes out of a world more rooted in physical abilities than in intellectual rigor. I know it’s my own saboteurs talking but when I call myself a coach, I can’t deny the urge to don a windbreaker, sports pants, and a shiny whistle. 

As coaches, we search for resonance. What doesn’t feel right to our clients is a signal that they are not living in accordance with their values or life purpose as we’ve worked together to define it. And yet, try as we might, we can’t escape the term “coach.”  “Coaching” has been the descriptor since the development of the profession in the 1980s.

Many other words to describe what we do just don’t cut it. “Mentor” implies that we are giving advice, likewise “advisor.” “Consultant” puts a huge burden on the coach to provide the know-how. On the other hand, coaching starts with the idea that the client has 100% of the tools necessary to figure out what they want and how to get it. 

Coaches at their best, tease out insights that inspire action, and provide accountability. We walk alongside our clients, seeing in them their highest potential. We are excited for their successes and support them while they recover from setbacks. Does that make us “paid friends” or “companions,” as someone recently asked me. Even the best of friends usually don’t have the patience to listen dispassionately for hours to clients seeking answers within themselves.

Other ideas I’ve seen include the following, each with their own obvious problems. 

  • guru
  • teacher
  • advisor
  • strategist
  • advocate
  • champion
  • thought leader
  • specialist
  • guide
  • life catalyst

I must say that I’d like to be considered a “guru” with all its 60s style and paisley shirt connotations.

For most of us coaches, we’re stuck with this name that creates dissonance within us. As our profession develops, perhaps the term coach, modified as “life coach,” “career coach,” or “executive coach” will seem more professional. After all, coaching isn’t about us. It’s about our clients’ needs. And if calling myself a coach makes it easier for someone in need to find me, that’s the name I’m going to use. 

If you’re curious about how coaching might help you and your projects, schedule a 30 minute discovery session (no charge). I promise to listen intently and provide accountability steps that will move you forward.

Do you hear too many voices in your head? Have trouble knowing whether you should listen to your “inner critic?” I can also tell you about my new program Positive Intelligence. Positive Intelligence uses simple cognitive therapy-based exercises, videos, and weekly group coaching to help you get your saboteurs under control so you can live a life of more ease and flow.

Mind chatter: to be stopped or savored for its insight into the human experience

If you’re stuck listening to sometime angry and critical voices in your head, you may be curious as to what they all mean. As a coach, I’ve been working with Positive Intelligence for six months and I’m learning more about what these voices mean and how to quiet them when they aren’t helping. 

In this New Yorker review of the new book “Chatter” by the experimental psychologist Ethan Kross, New Yorker writer Katy Waldman relates how different thinkers from King Solomon to Freud to Joan Didion have thought about these voices and what they mean.

Most of us want to quiet these voices, or at least slow them down so we can make sense of them. The voice or voices say so many different things that they really don’t help us “think through a problem.” Instead, they sow even more doubt and confusion.

In perhaps predictable New Yorker fashion, Ms. Waldman has a great curiosity about how thinkers and writers have tried to interpret this most human of phenomena. She is less interested in the self-help latter part of the book where the author suggests actual ways to stop the voices. Instead, Ms. Waldman relishes the polyphony of perspectives and would have preferred more anecdotes about their poetic use. She relishes the voices as part of our emotional selves. 

While I too enjoy the almost solipsistic appreciation of the inner mind’s cacophony, as if an entire universe exists between our two ears, I’m too aware of the real damage done by these voices. They stop us from feeling real happiness and force the mind to dwell on fear, shame, regret, and disappointment, disguised as ways to make us feel temporarily better. 

As a Positive Intelligence-trained coach, I’ve learned that these voices still are not meant to be stifled. Instead, we can learn to harness the best part of them. Using techniques similar to meditation and cognitive behavior techniques (CBT), we all can learn to recognize each voice, stop it, and pull from these in-the-head “conversations” wiser and more positive actions.