We all-too-frequently use CJB (criticisms, judgement, blame), even though it creates results that nobody wants.
As change-makers, the easiest way we can transform a conversation or team environment is to stop using or reacting to CJB.
Before we get there, it’s useful to understand why we use it so often.
Why Do We Use CJB?
We’ve been socialized to do so.
Through repetition at home, school and work, we watch elders use CJB with the intent of reducing errors and making it clear to us what’s good and what’s bad.
While that sounds like a good idea, it hasn’t worked. Practice has shown that:
- Positive reinforcement (rewarding what works without criticizing what doesn’t) has been found to be far more effective than negative reinforcement (punishing unwanted behavior or outcomes).
- Judgements of what’s right and wrong aren’t obvious across contexts. Take a viral video of Dr Gallogy, who shouted at a patient and her family. Of course, we judge that behavior as “wrong” yet what if he and his staff were being threatened with violence? Then was he “right?” See an article here and another here. What’s “right” and “wrong” depends on the context.
- Blame never helped anyone. It’s an attempt to avoid the consequences of one’s behavior by shifting it to someone else. The result? Nothing gets solved. Problems get covered with drama and grow in the meantime, postponing much-needed attention. In organizations today, responsibility and authority are often separated, so people often blame each other out of fear — especially when they are personally blamed for something they could not control. When someone on a team is blamed for something that’s not his/her responsibility or fault, then what?
Life Without Criticisms, Judgement, Blame (CJB)
Let’s say you’re convinced that CJB is not the answer. You’ve experienced it first-hand and know how painful and ineffective it is. Maybe you’ve flung CJB at others in order to survive in an organizational setting.
If you don’t use CJB, but experience it from others, the key is to learn how to respond vs react. Reacting is what most of us do, most of the time. Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel prize for his work on this topic, naming two ways of thinking — fast and slow. Fast thinking is the habitual, reactive and automatic-pilot approach that comes from the subconscious mind. Slow thinking is the responsive thinking that comes from our conscious mind, which tends to require more brain power. Responding to CJB means seeing it as unmet needs.
Instead of seeing CJB as a threat, seeing it as someone’s unmet needs helps us stop taking things personally, plus, focuses our attention on what’s needed to transform the conversation around to what’s actually beneficial to the situation. Practice seeing CJB as unmet personal needs and see what you notice — and stay tuned for more blogs or videos on this topic.
If you use CJB and want to stop, the key is to learn new ways to encourage behavior and outcomes that contribute positively to a project and team. It’s simple — share positive compliments or appreciation when someone does something that is what psychologists call “pro-social,” meaning good for everyone involved. Examples include helping someone finish their work on a Friday night or sending flowers to a colleague whose elder parent fell ill.
How much CJB do you notice flying around on your team?