Better judgments Part 3
Equally important as Perception is Asking. We all know the social questions about job, family, travel, holidays. Useful, but they only tell you basic information about someone you may have to judge. However, the kind of questions that would give you real insight may be too personal, too impertinent to ask, certainly on first acquaintance. Few things are more irritating than the person who gives the impression of being ‘nosey’ especially if the purpose is to sell you something.
Asking questions is essential to forecasting and making judgments. Learning how to make each succeeding question a little more personal – which means more relevant to you – is an acquired art. At the heart of this is curiosity, and true curiosity grows out of caring. Concern is not just about survival but about sustained quality, of life, health, love, purpose.
If you think your memory is getting bad, take heart, so is everyone else’s. This is because information is too readily available – as solutions abound, pressure to think reduces. There is a second reason why our memories are getting worse – we are becoming less curious. Asking questions is a symptom of curiosity and the process is self-fulfilling. The more you ask, the more curious you become. Expanding your perception with questions improves your memory, too. As I said in an earlier Daily Paradox, we remember the absurd.
No good asking questions unless you know how to listen to the answers. Both asking and listening are equally active states, the former because it must demonstrate care; the latter so that the care implicit in the question is confirmed by the way the answer is treated. At its simplest, the hostile reception of an answer immediately destroys the possibility of making a good judgment. Hostility is an anti-communication. It sets up barriers and reduces an interaction to one of accusation and defence. You then depend on wit to make your case. Establishing a relationship is best done outside the courtroom of adversarial wit.
All useful interpretation is lost in hostility. In order, therefore, to interpret what we have heard we must receive as clear and logical a message as possible. We must also be in a frame of mind that allows us to think creatively, not defensively. Just as our perception has to be creative, so does our interpretation. The person communicating with us may not be very lucid. S/he may lack the vocabulary to express themselves precisely. When we receive with an open mind, we give ourselves a chance to see several versions of what they are saying and interpret them in such a way as to achieve the best possible outcome.
By the time we reach the forecasting stage of our analysis we have seen many versions of what is being presented or said to us. Imagine you are given something to eat that you don’t recognise – and forget politeness for a moment. You would probably turn it over, hold it up to the light, smell it, prod it, look at it from different angles. Doing so would help you work out what you had been offered. We are doing the same thing with a situation, a person, a conversation. The variety of views with which we examine it gives us the best possible chance of interpreting it correctly.
We seldom associate creativity with judgment because our legal systems are designed to eliminate it. That is why legal judgments are so often arbitrary, attending to the letter not the spirit of the law. The judgments we must make about other people are for the purpose of developing something not locking it away in a prison cell.
Good judgment involves good input from us as much as from the other person.