Being “judgeable” is a good thing, mostly

Listen Like a Lawyer previously reviewed Heidi Grant Halvorson’s No One Understands You and What to Do About It. The review (and much of the book) focused on understanding how you are perceived, to have a more accurate effect on others. Accurate in this sense means you are perceived the way you intend to be perceived. It’s a pragmatic concern about how to interact with the world so as to be effective. The portions of the book about trust, power, and ego should be highly relevant to any lawyer working in a group.

What I didn’t talk about enough in the original review, and want to talk about now, is a deeper and more personal aspect of the book: the concept of being “judgeable.” Different people are stronger and weaker at being judgeable. What it means is expressing yourself so that others can perceive you more accurately:

It is definitely better to be judgeable—to have others read you easily and accurately. Research consistently shows that people who are more judgeable are psychologically better adjusted—they are happier; are more satisfied with their personal and professional lives; have more lasting, positive relationships; and have a greater sense of purpose. They feel able to live more authentically and are more confident in their self-knowledge. This makes a lot of sense.  . . . Life is simply easier and more rewarding when people “get you” and provide you with the opportunities and support that are a good fit for you.

Halvorson mentions a connection between being judgeable and living authentically. Within the context of a book all about thinking about how others perceive you, I found that a bit counter-intuitive at first. Before reading No One Understands You, I might have naively described authenticity like this: Proclaim you are living authentically and then stop caring about what other people think; you’re now living authentically and people need to accept you as you are. If they don’t understand you the way you like to express yourself, that’s their problem. You shouldn’t do anything about it because to do so would be compromising your authenticity.

(It should be obvious I hadn’t read very much on authenticity up to this point.) 

In fact, the book implies that living authentically means caring more about what other people think. Thinking about how trust, power, and ego may affect the way others are interacting allows a person to adjust to those distortions. By understanding the perception of others and trying to shape their perception toward what is really intended, a person can become more judgeable. This in turn helps them find the right social and professional fit for their skills and personality, which bears an obvious connection to living and working authentically.

In the professional world, we all know there are times when professionals—including but not limited to lawyers—need to make themselves less judgeable. Masking one’s motives in a negotiation, for example, could be an important skill. Projecting confidence when you are feeling dread seems like a good tool for any trial lawyer.

But negotiating and trying cases call for different skills than effectively managing a team. No One Understands You  is a business book, and Halvorson’s main audience is business leaders. For leaders, coming across to others as they intend helps with both communication and motivation. Thus lawyers interested in leadership and retention would do well to check out No One Understands You. 

So would lawyers who are interested in authenticity on a more individual basis. I had never heard the word “Judgeable” used in this context, and to be honest, the spelling with that “e” in the middle of “judgeable” still makes me cringe a little bit. (Too many years of highlighting “summary judgement” in commenting on legal writing.)

The concept of being judgeable, however, makes a lot of sense, both personally and professionally.

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