• Fiona Phillips

“I’m Not Judgemental”

Yes you are. It’s normal, it’s natural and you know what? It’s ok.

I’m a counsellor. I work with lots of people with a variety of presenting issues, and I offer a safe, confidential and non-judgemental service to my clients in Gravesham and the surrounding areas. Being non judgemental is a skill that I work hard at keeping switched on.

We’ve all heard of our fight or flight instincts. They are ingrained upon us before we know anything about them. Our brain makes quick judgements about situations we’re in, and acts accordingly. This is why we automatically do all we can to protect ourselves from danger.

To some extent, sometimes we make conscious judgements in order to protect ourselves from perceived danger too. Let’s say for example we see someone coming towards us that looks “scary”, we might cross the street to make us feel safer. There is no harm in this, the likelihood is that the stranger would be unlikely to know what judgement we had made about them after all.

What about making verbal judgements about others though? Saying all uni students are messy, old people are forgetful, cancer patients are sad, teenagers are moody etc are all just stereotypes and unfair. We all know that’s not nice.. but how often do we make judgements unintentionally?

Let’s say you hear your neighbours Mum has died. Bless him. How hard must that be, we might think. We’ve made a judgement.. we assume that that must be really tough.. and want to be kind, so may offer our condolences. Let’s rethink this though. Unless we know our neighbours Mum and their relationship, we have no way of actually knowing what that loss means. Perhaps they had a horrific relationship. Maybe his mum had been suffering an illness for a long time, and her death was a release of some sort. Our kind words may make the neighbour feel guilty for not feeling the way we think they should.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to assume. We all do it to a degree.. however, as a counsellor this is the kind of judgement I work hard not to listen to. I take time to listen to my clients feelings.. I accept that my view on my own personal experiences is not always the same as someone else’s.

It’s not always easy, and I often “forget myself” in my normal day to day life.

However in my role as a counsellor, I do my best not to. If I recognise myself making assumptions, I stop quickly. I ask questions to gage how my client really feels. I look at the body language of him/her, and notice it when the words don’t match their physical responses.

All too often, we give people an idea of how they should respond to certain circumstances. Society assumes that people who are abused should hate their perpetrators, but what if they don’t? They may feel confused, and our expectations of how they should feel may make it worse.

How often do we hear the phrase “why don’t they leave?” When we think of someone in a relationship tainted with domestic violence. We assume that’s what they should do. We think that’s what they want. What if they don’t? What if all they can think of is that they want the relationship to be like it used to? Surely that person has the right to their own thoughts? It is my job to let them explore their feelings. To work out what they really and honestly feel, and process why they feel it. All too often in the case of domestic abuse, the victim feels as though it’s their fault. Telling them it isn’t may feel like the right thing, but it’s actually much more valuable to validate their feelings, explore what has led them to having that thought in the first instance.

In a perfect world we would never judge others, purposely or unintentionally. But we don’t live in a perfect world. All we can realistically do, is notice when we’re doing it. The more we do, the more likely we are to change our old habits... and live in a kinder world, imposing less expectations on others to act, or feel how we expect them to.

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