How do you help someone without judging them? Like if you know someone is making the same mistake over and over in his life, and he doesn’t see it, but you do, should you say something? Or let them keep doing it and hope they will figure it out eventually?
Our brains assess automatically, selecting details, noting emotions, and detecting similarities or differences between others, our surroundings and ourselves. We roll all of this information around in our minds for a nanosecond before an opinion is born. Yes, that means judging someone is a natural process. What’s essential is that we question our judgments, like you are doing, rather than automatically acting out. After all, not every judgment is true. Not every judgment is in our own best interest. And not every judgment is in service of our collective spiritual evolution.
It’s painful to watch someone we love make self-harming choices. If that person is a child or teenager, we must intervene, always. When an adult repeats a pattern of poor choices, our responses should be informed by the variables of the story. My response, for example, to a chronic addict who regularly demands my money will be different than my response to a friend who yearns for a partner but continually dates people who are commitment-conflicted.
But, yes, either way, I would choose to drop a seed of insight into a friend’s life. That’s because I believe that humanity is one family, and that we are responsible to and for one another. Translation: We are related through love. When we love someone, we challenge that person to become his or her best self. It’s a tough, ego-grinding effort to challenge someone, or to be challenged. It demands an ongoing emotional housecleaning to stay awake to our own fears, arrogance, vulnerabilities and hopes. It requires even more work to stay conscious of our own filters as we offer guidance to a friend.
Another thing I’ve learned is this: Truth-telling is a gift that should have no strings attached. If you clue someone in on his or her self-harming behavior, don’t expect change or gratitude. Wisdom is most often met by a wall of resistance. If this happens to you, please don’t take it personally.
My job requires that I attend evening social events. I often invite my partner because I work so much, we would not see each other as often if I didn’t. The problem is that she embarrasses me. When she’s introduced, she barely says two words to the person. When conversation goes on for a while in a small group, she mostly chows down. Someone always comments on her behavior. If I don’t invite her to events with me, she gets testy and we argue. What should I do?
Step out solo, at least for now. Your partner may be an asset to your personal life, but she’s not an asset to your career. If you feel awkward or frustrated, others can sense your discomfort. Eventually, social contacts may prefer to avoid you. If you alone are on the town, you might be motivated to wrap up socializing early enough to meet up with your partner. One thing is clear, however, you must prioritize your relationship. The emotional intimacy that sustains a couple requires an ongoing investment of time, energy and focus. Hanging out together at work-related social events is not sufficient to fuel intimacy.
You might also consider encouraging your partner to open up to others. A gathering with friends is the perfect venue for practicing small talk. Don’t criticize her, though. Focusing on what she does right in social situations will build the confidence she needs to be herself in a world of extroverts.