For those who work in a variety of social care professions, you would no doubt have come across this word.The number of times it appears on application forms is said at interviews and the many that proclaim " I have a non-judgemental attitude when working with vulnerable adults" are countless. However , is it possible the claim to be non-judgemental received in the correct context of what the deliverer intended
What does it mean?
Non-judgmental implies open-mindedness, rejection of uninformed assumptions, and avoidance of blame. It may also suggest a capacity for compassion and empathy.
Non-judgmental is a descriptor that conveys the opposite meaning to the pejorative sense of value judgment: it expresses avoidance of personal opinion and reflex "knee-jerk" reactions.
The above are two descriptions of the word descriptions that fit nicely with what I think being non-judgemental entails. However , I know that being non-judgemental is a challenge and, some would say not possible.
I recently attended some training on group facilitation and one of the words that came up a lot in response to the attributes needed for effective group facilitation was objective.It was mooted that we cannot be completely objective there will always be an element of subjective .I always thought being objective was in some way connected to being non-judgemental. Then I found this description
(of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts
impartial, unbiased, unprejudiced, non-partisan, disinterested, non-discriminatory, neutral, uninvolved, even-handed, equitable, fair, fair-minded, just, open-minded, dispassionate, detached, impersonal, unemotional, clinical
I particularly list the above descriptions of objective as I am considering the word in terms "of a person", relationships, opinions and judgment made in relation to what a person say's, does, behaves, chooses to live their life and write, for instance. Rather than in a grammatical sense.
And, all the above got me really thinking about the complexities of language and the words we use, the meanings we attribute to them and how they might have very different meanings for different people from different fields of thought and , indeed different memes and cultures.
If I were to say I strive to be non-judgemental and objective with my clients would that be understood as I intended? Would it actually mean anything? And, most importantly for me is there a contradiction here?
Is it something we can turn on and off?
For me when I use the word non-judgemental I am intending to convey the following
Open-mindedness, rejection of uninformed assumptions, avoidance of blame and a capacity for compassion and empathy.
This is the description that best suits what I intend to convey when I say it. The assumed fact that objective involves "impersonal & unemotional" cannot, therefore, fit alongside my use of non-judgemental.
Which leads me to the views, opinions, critique, debate and anything else we apply when commenting on people's posts. If these comments are applied in a non-judgemental manner according to the above then this is A-OK.
Yes we are judging, commenting and offering critique but that does not make us judgemental
Get to the point
There is no point unless you wanna point a finger. As someone said to me once, though, " when you're pointing a finger there are two pointing right back at you" Or maybe it was three pointing back at you