Try being curious instead of judgmental

mood elevator

In light of the racial tensions again gripping our country, this guest post by Dr. Larry Stern is quite timely. This week he celebrates the launch of his new book, The Mood Elevator. Take a few moments to evaluate whether you approach things with a spirit of judgment, or a spirit of curiosity.


Walking around being judgmental of the people around you is one way to hurt relationships with loved ones, coworkers, and other close relationships. If you come off as a judgmental person it is very unlikely that people will come to you for advice, feedback, or personal conversations because they may feel like you will judge them.


Being judgmental can also be detrimental to the person who is doing it. It can block people off to being at the top of their Mood Elevator, it inhibits growth and new ideas, and causes unnecessary irritation, anger, and possibly even depression.


Why do we like to judge so much?


Being judgmental relieves us of the hard work of trying to understand something that is unfamiliar. It lets us quickly categorize it according to a simplistic, superficial standard, which is much faster and easier- although the results are often incorrect and ultimately unhelpful. It also gives us a sense of righteousness being able to say we are “right” and others are “wrong”, even though it may ultimately lead to petty arguments and conflicts.


This tendency to judge is also a reason why organizations are not as agile and creative as they could be. If there is a culture geared towards judgment instead of curiosity and innovation, it won’t create as many new ideas.


Consider these hypothetical situations:


Scenario #1: Your boss announces that the company has chosen a new software system to manage all of your operations at work- and learning how to use it will require two days of training and studying a 100-page manual.


Judgmental: “I can’t believe they’re making us do this! Can’t they see how big of an inconvenience this is to all of us?”


Curious: “This could be interesting. I suppose I could learn something new. I wonder what advantages there might be for me.”


Scenario #2: Over dinner your spouse presents you with plans to travel to a new vacation spot that is completely different from the one you love best.


Judgmental: “I work so hard and look forward to this vacation all year! Why can’t he/she understand this?”


Curious: “I wonder why he wants to change from our favorite spot? I suppose it could be fun trying something new.”


Scenario #3: A new colleague at work has a background that is very different from yours- he has a unique education and career path. You’re told “Meet your new partner!”


Judgmental: “Ugh, this is going to make my job so much harder. Now I’m going to have to train him and it’s going to double my workload.”


Curious: “I wonder why they think I need a partner. I can see he might be able to help with my workload and…… there might be an advantage in having two sets of eyes on these challenging projects.”


Try to catch yourself when you are being judgmental. Practice redirecting your thinking towards a more curious mindset Let the curious floor on the Mood Elevator be a friend and a tool to use often.



About Dr. Larry Senn

Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website,


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