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  • Writer's pictureKelvin Ng

Losing the Space for Co-Creation, Losing Our Effectiveness

Updated: May 22, 2022

How we lose our balance and get distracted from getting better result in working with others

I came across this post on Linkedin the other day. It drawn my attention as it highlights several issues that we need to pay attention to in order not to widen the gaps between us and others, and lose the space and opportunity for co-creation.

Making Judgment without Being Judgmental

The first issue we may want to reflect on is the risk of becoming judgmental in our interactions with others.

The poster said that an applicant once gave her/ him a long lecture on how judgmental she/ he was after she/ he simply corrected her (the applicant’s) errors in some messages written in English.

Since we don’t know the details, we could not comment on whether the poster was judgemental or not at that instance. And, I think it is not the point.

I think the focus is on developing a heightened awareness ourselves. It is important as being judgmental in our thinking and talking unbalances ourselves and jeopardises our own personal and interpersonal effectiveness.

And, accusing another person of being judgemental is in fact a judgemental act in itself. And, if you did that, most likely, you would engage the other person in a vicious cycle of accusing each other. It is not a very constructive way of talking with each other.

So, what does it mean to be judgmental? Don’t we need to have good judgment to be effective?

In his book, Making Judgments Without Being Judgmental, Terry D. Cooper talks about the difference between healthy judgment and judgmentalism.

He differentiates them along four aspects. I have summarised them in the table below.

I think there are two key points we need to pay attention to.

The first one is about separating the person from the behaviour.

Healthy judgment focuses on behaviour. We could denounce a hurtful behaviour, and we better avoid identify a particular behaviour with the entire personhood.

Unfortunately, it is very easy for us to size up another person within a short interaction in this fast pace world. Sometimes, we even praise ourselves for our ability to do so.

For example, if someone was late for a meeting, one participant might think, “She/ he is always late.” Another might think, “She/he does not care about the meeting.” Yet, another one might think, “She/ he is an irresponsible person.” All this happens in milliseconds.

The second one is about separating our judgment from the universal truth.

Healthy judgment does not blind us with absolute certainty. With absolute certainty, we tend to see our judgment as the universal truth, the only way thing is or should be.

It is limiting, it makes us rigid in our thinking and in our interaction with others.

Absolute certainty limits our vision and only allows us to see things that support our judgment. It jeopardises our personal effectiveness.

So, it is advisable to ground or sustain our judgment with enough observable facts.

It is also advisable to look for observable facts that do not provide evidence to support our judgment.

As in the example above, that person was late.

What other facts we could point to that support the judgment that “she/ he does not care about the meeting”?

What counter evidence we could point to that oppose the judgment that “she/ he does not care about the meeting”?

From the above screencap of the exchange between the potential candidate and the interview, one may notice that there are a few things that the potential candidate may need to work on, such as business and social etiquette, courtesy, written communication using English, social sensitivity, communication skills, etc, in order to enhance his/ her personal effectiveness.

Since the screencap only captured part of the exchange, we don’t know what actually happened before the message, “I am fresh grad so no portfolio.” Given the benefit of doubt, I suspect a lot had happened before that, and as a result, the interviewer came to the conclusion regarding the candidate’s need for intensive character development.

And, even if we have grounded our judgments, we need to remind ourselves that they are just our judgments.

Openness and reflectiveness enhance our effectiveness!

Sometimes, absolute certainty may take the driver seat and inflate other’s fault and/ or inflate our own virtue.

It happens often, especially when we are triggered, and the other person becomes an enemy to be eliminated or crushed.

I fall into these traps often myself, so I know.

Being Mindful and not Reactive

Another issue we may want to reflect on is our ability to be mindful and not reactive in our interactions with others.

It is a difficult task as amygdala hijack (where emotion takes over) happen instantly and frequently in our daily lives. And, that is why psychological safety is so important for the effectiveness of a team.

Since the screencap only captured part of the exchange, we don’t know what actually happen before the message, “I am fresh grad so no portfolio.”

However, it is obvious that the potential candidate had shown her/ his interests in getting to know more about the job.

Although the phone number might not be a proper channel for communication regarding that job opening, the interviewer was trying to be helpful and took the time to chat with the candidate.

And, she/ he also invited the candidate to send in her/ his portfolio.

All looks good until the candidate texted, “Did you go to university?”. And, the conversation went downhill from there.

It seems the interviewer was triggered somehow. And, of course, she/ he has every right to be angry in that context.

We are not here to judge who is right or who is wrong.

Instead, I want to heighten our awareness on issues that unbalance us and distract us from getting better result in interacting with others.

If one was mindful of one’s reactivity during such interaction, one could regain the ability to use proper Linguistic Acts to make proper assertion, assessment, declaration, request, offer, or promise to create result in their interactions with another person more effectively.

For example, instead of making the statement, “Don’t mind me asking u got my number from who”, the interviewer could make:

  • A proper request to the potential candidate not to use that phone number for conversation regarding the job opportunity, or

  • A clear declaration that terms and conditions will only be disclosed during the interview, if she/ he did not want to talk about that for the time being, or

  • A promise to provide details of the terms and conditions via another channel, or even

  • A request for an apology if she/ he felt being offended, and etc.

I am sure using proper Linguistic Acts will shift the relationship and create new understandings and insights for the potential candidate.

The candidate would learn a lot from the interviewer at that interaction, and new intention and actions may become possible afterward from both parties.

More about Linguistic Acts will be shared in future articles.

Seeing Ourselves as Part of the System

You may ask, “Why do we need to do all these?” “Why can’t we just tell the person to go away?”

As mentioned, I know it is not an easy task. I am asking a lot from us. However, if we are not happy with the status quo, let’s find some ways to change it.

And, I believe that we cannot change the status quo if we stay in the position of an observer, separating ourselves from the problem.

If we are not part of the problem, we are not part of the solution.

And, we could not effect any change.

I invite you to see the human race as a system instead of separate individuals or groups of individuals. We may need to re-direct our attention to ourselves and ask “What is required of me in order to change the situation?”

For example, at certain level, younger generation is a product of the previous generation, or a product of the system created by the previous generations. It is a result of their interactions with the system, the rest of us.

The world is not getting more diverse by itself, and the younger generation is not getting very much different from us by themselves.

We are part of the whole. We are part of the problem and, fortunately, part of the solution as well.

In order to make the situation better, we need to pay heed of issues that may unbalance us and distract us from the purpose of making it better. We need to maintain our effectiveness in working with others. Don't let the 'Bad' drives out the 'Good' in us!

Being judgmental and being reactive will only widen the gap between us and make the other side an enemy to be eliminated in our mind. It will not make us more effective and make the situation better.

As mentioned above, we could respond to the candidate differently.

It is not about impose something unilaterally on others. It is about co-creating something that benefits both parties together.

We are working in a multigenerational workplace, so we may need to think about how to attract and engage different generations.

If clarity on the terms and conditions (It seems that is what the candidate wanted to know.) is what the younger generation is looking for, should we leverage on it so as to attract more talent?

Should we change the way we organise work and promote the job vacancy?

Or should we assume real talent does not care about flex hours and salary?

Even though we don't plan to see that person again, at least, we could leave the person with some new insights and understandings for a better future of the whole.

And, this thinking applies to all kinds of diversity, not only generational diversity.

Again, we are not here to decide who is right and who is wrong.

The point is that there is always something we could learn from the other side so that we could re-evaluate our assumptions and judgments to enhance our effectiveness in achieving better result together.

The space for co-creation is fragile.

If we lose it, we lose our own personal effectiveness and the effectiveness of the team or a bigger whole.

So, handle it with care!


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