Examining our judgements of others


This is the last in a series of five posts about communication. In Shadow Work we use a model for authentic communication which requires 5 different aspects to be communicated. These are:

The Facts What actually happened

Our Judgements What we think or believe about what happened

Our Feelings How we feel about what happened

Our Boundary What is not ok for us

Our Want What we want from the other person

(It might be helpful to look at the previous four Communication posts in conjunction with this one. Please follow these links: how can we communicate with authenticity and depth , communicating without arguing , communicating our vulnerability with dignity , communicating our boundaries)

In this post we are introducing a final voluntary part of the communication model, which has the potential to really deepen our understanding of ourselves and our shadow sides. It can also lead us to a deeper connection with the other person if we choose to share our thoughts and insights with them.


There are three ways that we can explore what we have said in the judgements section of our communication in order to learn more about ourselves and others and to deepen our communication.


This part asks the questions:
Which of the judgements that you have made of the ‘other’ can you own for yourself?

As Robert Bly has pointed out, we all go around with a little projector in our head which takes aspects of ourselves and projects them out on to others. We sometimes therefore see our own shadows in other people whilst not recognising them in ourselves. (Please note, this doesn’t mean this quality is NOT present in the other person – it may be – but we focus very strongly on the possibility of it being present in the other person when it may be of deeper value to acknowledge its existence in ourselves.)

Here’s an example. Imagine a woman Jane met a good friend for lunch and she found that her friend talked all the way through their meeting. There was no opportunity for Jane to talk. No space for her. She finds herself getting quite upset afterwards about the way the meeting went. So when she’s reflecting on what happened Jane could use the Shadow Work communication model to lay out her thoughts and feelings as follows:

Data: We met for lunch and you ( my friend ) talked about the difficulties you’d been having at work.

Judgements: You talked a lot. There was no space for me to talk, you didn’t seem to care about me. You were selfish. You only met me for yourself, so you could vent on me. I ended up with a sense of despair and I just wanted to escape from you! (NB when sharing our Judgements we always make an effort to let the other person know that these are our responses to the situation, they may not be true, they are our reactions and may not reflect in any way on the other person. Please see the previous 4 articles for more information on how to phrase these conversations.)

Feelings: I feel sad.

Boundary: It’s not ok with me that you didn’t ask how I was or give me a chance to speak.

Want: I want our meetings to be more even handed, so that you give me an equal opportunity to talk.

Now, looking at the judgements section she could ask herself which of the judgements that she made of her friend can she own herself.  She judged her friend as being selfish, just meeting her to vent, and not being interested in her. If she honestly looks at herself, she can ask ‘Do I ever exhibit these characteristics that I am judging in her?’ Looking carefully at her past behaviour she may think ‘I could see that I have sometimes approached conversations in this way, really wanting to talk about something that’s important to me, venting my feelings and not interested in listening to the other person. Also, I have to admit that in those moments I’m not really caring about the person opposite me, I am not giving space to hear what is going on for them. If I am honest, I can admit that I am harshly judging my friend for behaving in a way I have sometimes behaved in the past.’ Sometimes the judgements we make of others may not reflect on us in any way, but in this example for Jane they definitely did, so it is always worth exploring this.

It’s worth taking this a bit further by looking at the final two judgements as well. Feeling despair and wanting to escape are quite strong reactions. What was going on for Jane that this experience was so overwhelming for her? She may consider this and think, ‘I came from a large noisy family, and I can see that the only way I could get any ‘airtime’ was to talk loudly and constantly, and so dominate the little conversation space that was available to me. And I can see that maybe I have continued this childhood dynamic in my adult life, fearing that if I do not dominate the conversation I might not get to talk at all. And if that happens I feel lonely and despairing just as I did as a child when I couldn’t make myself heard, just as I did with my friend who talked a lot that day.’

So, here Jane has turned a difficult situation into an opportunity for self learning, and an opportunity for deepening her connection with her friend. Jane might have decided to run off and never see this friend again. Instead she has used the Shadow Work model to reveal clearly to herself a way in which she behaves and how that behaviour originated. She has pulled back her projections from her friend. She can now go ahead and speak to her friend about this in an open way, sharing her experience and her judgements and owning the parts of the judgements that apply to her. She can share her childhood experiences with her friend so that her friend gets to understand why Jane responded in the way she did. Jane has owned up to her own behaviour in similar circumstances so she can now take steps to correct it. Her friend has had the opportunity to see deeply into Jane, right back to her childhood, and can understand her better. This means they have enhanced their connection in a situation which otherwise might have permanently damaged their friendship. When Jane owns her judgements in this way it makes it much more likely that her friend will be able to listen openly to Jane’s experience and will make an effort to allow space for Jane to speak in future in conversations.

Such a level of introspection is sometimes only possible after all our thoughts and feelings have been expressed and heard by the other person and when we feel calmer and more reflective, so this section may be reserved for later on in a conversation, or even on another day. It may also be something we wish to do only alone in order to learn about ourselves and may not choose to share our thoughts with the other person. Examining our judgements can often be a first step towards exploring and healing what we have held in Shadow.

Of course, it may be that when they talk Jane’s friend fully acknowledges that she talked a lot on that day and that she is aware she was being quite demanding in getting her own needs met. This is covered in part 3 of this article, but this doesn’t in any way take away from Jane’s process of self reflection. A different person may not have had the reaction Jane did to her friend’s behaviour. Someone else may have felt happy to listen and support, trusting that there would be space for them to speak another time. Another person might have felt really honoured that their friend trusted them enough to talk to them at such length and they may have been pleased, thinking that the meeting had deepened the friendship. So it is really helpful to acknowledge that others may have had a completely different reaction to the same situation and that our particular reaction has something to teach us about ourselves.


If we have experienced distressing or traumatic situations in our early lives we are likely to develop a part of ourselves that tries to protect us from ever experiencing such a situation again. One way we may protect ourselves is to look out for similar situations and try to alert ourselves to them early on. In this way we hope to have time to take action to avoid the same thing happening again. This part of us can become very hyper-vigilant. Such alertness may have been extremely helpful during our childhood and may well have kept us safe, but is likely be out of date now as we operate in the adult world.

This vigilant part of us can be behind some of the judgements we make. For example, if a man’s partner is an hour late to meet him for lunch there may be many reasons. However, without further evidence the judgements he makes (the conclusions he draws or the fears he has) are likely to reflect his childhood experiences in some way:
– He may start to think his partner has had an accident or fallen ill or been hurt.
– He may think they no longer love him, or that they’ve found someone else they’d prefer to spend time with.
– He may think they’ve been terribly thoughtless and just couldn’t be bothered to respect him by arriving on time.
– He may think they’re trying to manipulate him in some way rather than communicating directly. Perhaps they would prefer a different cafe or they disapprove of spending money on eating lunch out.
– He may think they are trying to punish him for something – perhaps something he said or did the night before.
– He may assume it is his mistake – perhaps he got the time wrong – or the cafe? He may fear their anger at his error.

What would your thoughts be in this situation? Would they be similar to one of the above, or something different – or would you wait calmly without making any judgements of the situation?

Whatever response you have is likely to reflect your childhood experiences. For example, if you experienced a parent leaving when you were young then you may think something along the lines of the second judgement listed – that your partner doesn’t love you anymore, or has chosen someone else over you. If a parent or family member died when you were young you may think thoughts along the lines of the first statement. If your parents were very critical and you were often blamed and punished for things then your judgement might be similar to one of the last two statements.

So when we ask who is standing behind the person you are judging we are asking who originally treated you in this way that you are now judging this person to have treated you? If this man’s mother had abandoned him when he was little he might respond with the second judgement and think that his partner doesn’t love him any more if they are late. He might fear they’ve chosen someone else over him. In this case the person ‘standing behind’ his partner is his mother. He is not seeing his partner clearly for the person she is, because he is viewing his partner’s behaviours through the lens of his previous experience with his mother. He is looking at his partner but seeing his mother standing behind her. We all make judgements in this way – it is automatic. However the more we can become aware of this process the more we can free ourselves up to see other people for who they really are and to understand that their actions may have very different causes to those that we have guessed at.


Last but not least it can save a lot of agonising and soul searching if you simply take the time to check out your judgements with the other person involved. This isn’t always possible, and is likely to hold some risks for you, but when you have the chance to talk openly with the other person it can be tremendously helpful simply to ask them if you are correct or not.

We could go back to the example above where the man’s partner is late. Let’s call his partner Jo. Once Jo has arrived he could check out what was going on for her and why she was late. For example, if he had been thinking that she was punishing him for something he had done the night before he could say something like:
‘When you arrived late today I had a lot of thoughts and feelings swirling around. I know this may be nothing to do with what was actually going on for you, but I started to think that maybe you’d decided to arrive late to punish me for what I did last night. I thought maybe you wanted to get back at me. I know that might not be the case, but I just wanted to check it out.’
This will probably feel quite scary for him to say, however there is real potential here to open up deep and honest communication between the two. It can be very helpful to have a reality check at this stage. If Jo agrees that she might have been trying to get back at him, (perhaps even without being fully aware herself of what she was doing), then this can open up a conversation about what happened the night before and the fact that it is not yet resolved for her. It allows a possibility for them to resolve it through an open and honest discussion rather than allowing resentments to build. If however she reassures him that she was genuinely delayed and it was in no way her attention to punish him then this can calm his fears and prevent the thought from lingering in his mind and causing difficulties for them later on. It can also give Jo an insight in to his thoughts and feelings that will bring the two of them closer, and may result in her changing her behaviour and contacting him in future to let him know when she’s delayed to reassure him that everything’s ok between them.

Please visit http://www.shiatsuandshadowworkbristol.co.uk for further information about Shadow Work.


Communicating our Vulnerability with Dignity.

In the last blog we explore the first two parts of the Authentic Communication model – facts and judgements. You may want to take a look at this before you read on…


In this blog we are going to explore sections 3 and 5 of the model: ‘Feelings’ and ‘Wants’.

Please note, now that we’re working with 4 different aspects of the model altogether – facts, judgements, feelings and wants, statements from each different section have been colour coded for clarity. Facts are written in red, judgements in green, feelings in blue and wants in orange.

The Feelings and Wants sections are the two sections most likely to expose our vulnerability. Most of us find the idea of vulnerability pretty scary, and because of this we are likely to avoid the Feelings and Wants parts in our communication. This may not be conscious, and even when we believe we’re being totally honest, you will see the Feelings and Wants aspects are rarely stated clearly. The paradox is that it is only in exposing our vulnerability that we really share of ourself with another – and is that not what communication is really about? If we really want to be heard then we will need to risk showing our vulnerability and this means including our feelings and our wants in the conversation.


There are many ways we avoid saying what we’re feeling. Some common examples are:

We may give our Judgements, ‘You’re a liar’, ‘You’re cruel’, and assume the other person picks up how we’re feeling from this. We may be shouting. It may be ‘obvious’ that we’re angry. But how often do we actually state that? ‘I feel angry!’

We may give these judgements ‘You don’t love me anymore’, ‘You’re always at work’, and assume the other person knows what we’ll be feeling about that. We may be crying or looking upset when we give these judgements, but how often do we say, ‘I feel really sad’ ?

Equally we may make judgements that show we feel frightened. ‘You’re going to ask me to leave’. ‘You don’t want me working on this project’. It may seem obvious to us that we find this a scary thought, but how often do we actually say ‘I feel frightened about this.’ ?


In our model we encourage you to say, in one simple statement, the feeling, or feelings you have. We also encourage you to stick to what we see as the four most fundamental feelings:





Below are some examples which include the facts, the judgement and then the feeling. So that the separate sections are clear we’ve coloured the facts red, the judgements green and the feelings blue.

If the fact is that our partner was in the pub when they had told us they were at work we might say:

Yesterday when you were in the pub when you’d said you were at work I thought that you had lied to me and I felt really angry.’

Or, if the fact is that our boss didn’t return our call.

‘You didn’t return my call yesterday. Because of this I started to think that you don’t want to work with me any more but you don’t know how to tell me. I felt frightened.’

Or if my son wanted to spend Christmas with his dad this year instead of me I might say.

‘When you told me you want to spend Christmas with Dad this year it started me thinking that you might prefer being at his house, and thinking that makes me feel really sad.’

We hope you can see how adding the feeling so clearly deepens the level of communication, and also the level of vulnerability. We may not want to communicate this deeply with everyone, but if we really want to be understood and heard then including our feeling can really help.


So far so good. We’ve said everything now haven’t we? No! This is the mistake so many of us make so often. We have actually left out the most important part of the conversation – what we actually want from the other person.

Usually we are communicating because we want something to be different. Or sometimes it is simply because we want to be heard and understood. Whatever our reason we want SOMETHING from the other person. Yet wanting something from someone is potentially a very vulnerable position to be in. So without really realising it we may slide off actually saying what we want.

For example, if John’s partner is in the pub when she’d told him she was at work he may be really upset with her, He may tell her all his judgements and feelings – but what does he actually want from her? It may seem to him that she ‘should’ know what he wants, or that it is screamingly obvious what he wants – but it is still, we believe, the responsibility of the person communicating to state clearly what they want.

Does he want her to tell him honestly where she is all the time? Or does he want her not to flirt with other men? Or does he want her to come home to him if she’s not at work? Or does he want her to give up drinking?

He may think she knows what he wants, but she may really NOT know. So it is important for him to state his want clearly. It is important to state it as clearly as possible. It’s not necessarily helpful to say ‘I don’t want you to lie to me ever again.’ Or ‘I just want you to be more responsible’. These are too vague, and include hidden judgements of the other person.

Now, of course, if we ask for something we don’t necessarily get it. This is why stating our want makes us so vulnerable. We have to state it knowing we may not actually get it. This can be the reason why many people don’t clearly state their want. It can just be too painful.


So to conclude, let’s look at an example including facts, judgements, feelings and wants. Let’s go back to the example where John’s partner was in the pub when he thought she was at work. Different people will have very different thoughts, feelings and wants in response to this situation, but one example might be:

‘When you were in the pub the other day and you’d told me you were at work. (Facts. He may want to double check that she agrees with this as a fact before we go on). I thought you had deliberately lied to me. I started to believe you were avoiding being with me and you’re not enjoying my company at the moment. (John’s thoughts and judgements). I felt angry and also frightened. (His feelings). I’d really like you to tell me honestly how you’re feeling about our relationship and if there’s anything you’re finding difficult at the moment. (His want from her).

This is clear communication and offers many opportunities for John’s partner to respond, and for communication to flow between then. It may be that she is having difficulties with the relationship, or it may simply be that a colleague invited her for a drink and she fancied going. There are many different possibilities, John can’t know the truth until they begin communicating, and beginning a conversation in this way gives a good chance of them getting to the bottom of things and understanding each other more deeply.

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http://www.shiatsuandshadowworkbristol.co.uk and see the talks on the home page

How can we communicate with authenticity and depth?

There are certain situations in our life that call for us to dig deep and talk about what is really important to us. When the stakes are high it is important that we communicate effectively, if we are misunderstood in these important moments it can cause much pain and confusion. When we wish to build trust in a relationship, or when we want to be sure we are really heard, things go much better if we can communicate what we want to say fully and authentically. In reality this is no small thing to achieve and it requires both courage and vulnerability.

When we share ourselves fully we are stepping in to the unknown and we cannot predict the consequences. Communication becomes much more about expressing ourselves and what we are thinking and feeling, and less about trying to achieve a particular outcome or hoping to get our needs met by the other person. However, what we stand to gain is increased intimacy and deeper understanding – both of ourselves and the other. This deeper trust and understanding increases the chances that we will be able to work together towards ‘win win’ solutions where we can both feel happy with the outcome.

In Shadow Work we find people often communicate only half of what is really going on for them. If we are to truly communicate then we need to share all of who we are, not just selected parts of ourselves. The parts that tend to get left out in communication are the things that may make us vulnerable to the other, or cause us some shame or discomfort. Yet these are the very parts of ourselves that we need to share if we wish the other person to open their heart to us and really hear what we want to say. It is necessary to share these things if we want true communication to flow.

We also tend to avoid saying things we fear might compromise our relationship and cause the other person to leave us or judge us. Yet, if we wish to communicate with full authenticity we need to be able to accept that the relationship may change or end, otherwise we will always be compromised to some extent in our communication and there will always be certain thoughts, feelings or ideas that are ‘off limits’ in our conversations. In Shadow Work terms we would say that these have been put in to shadow. Paradoxically, once something is hidden away in shadow like this it has the potential to cause way more damage and destruction than if it is acknowledged openly.


In The Authentic Communication model that I use with couples, clients and groups we break communication down in to 5 different sections:

The Facts What actually happened

Our Judgements What we think or believe about what happened

Our Feelings How we feel about what happened

Our Boundary What is not ok for us

Our Want What we want from the other person


Now let’s look at using this model in more detail.

Some of us find it relatively easy to tell another person what we don’t like about their behaviour, and to let them know the judgements we have of them. For example:

‘You’re ALWAYS late home from work – you’re so THOUGHTLESS.’

What we are leaving out in this however is how we feel in response to their behaviour. Our genuine deep feeling, such as sadness, anger or fear. We are also forgetting to say what we actually want from the person, in place of the behaviour that we don’t like. It might be better to say:

‘I feel frightened when you’re late home. I fear that we’re growing apart. I’d like you to come home earlier so we can spend the evening together.’

However it can take a lot of courage to say what we fear. We may not want to have our fears confirmed. We may have a sense that speaking our fears makes them more likely to come true. Or we may worry that our fears will be seen as childish or silly.

It can also feel very vulnerable to ask for what we want, so without realising it many of us leave this out too. Yet this can leave the other person floundering, they only hear what they have done ‘wrong’ and yet are left with no idea what the ‘right’ thing to do would be. If we want to communicate effectively we need to let go of the hope that someone else will magically know what is right for us, and we need to communicate what we want clearly. We also need to accept that we may not get what we want. However it’s still important to communicate this so that the other person can know us better.

Another difficulty with communication can come in muddling up what has actually happened with our judgements of it. This too can leave the other person feeling confused. For example, if my friend was an hour late to meet me yesterday, and I got very annoyed waiting for her, I might say:

‘You’re so late, you really don’t value our friendship do you? I bet you were with your new boyfriend, you think he’s more important than me. You’re just not a good friend to me anymore and I need a good friend right now that I can trust.’

Now, for my friend to hear this is quite a lot! She may well respond defensively and communication could break down between us.
It would help for me to separate out what actually happened from my judgements of the situation. So, the only fact I know is that she arrived an hour after the time we arranged. The rest are all my judgements and it’s much clearer if I state them as that. Once I’ve had time to think about it I might say this instead:

‘I’d like to talk to you about the time you arrived today if that’s ok. My understanding was that we arranged to meet at 8 and you arrived at 9, am I right about that? While I was waiting for you I began to get the idea that you might be taking some extra time with your new boyfriend rather than getting here on time. I thought that maybe you don’t value our friendship so much now, and I actually thought – you’re not being a very good friend to me at the moment!’

It can also be helpful is to tell the other person that we know our judgements are not necessarily true. They’re just our guesses. They’re the sense we’re making of what has happened. Below I go on to say this and state my feeling (angry), my boundary (what I wasn’t ok with) and what I would like from her in future.

‘I know none of that is necessarily true, It’s just what started going round in my head while I was waiting, but the result of this was that I started to feel quite angry. It really wasn’t ok with me that you arrived so late. I’d really appreciate it if you could turn up on time when we meet as that would help me to believe you value our friendship – and right now I’d really like to feel secure in our friendship.’

All of this may still be hard to hear, but my friend can at least have some understanding of where I am coming from. I am sharing my vulnerability around our friendship and I’ve said clearly what I want from her and why. She is much more likely to be able to hear me and to enter in to a constructive dialogue with me. She is quite likely to share what is really going on for her (which may bear no relationship to what I was imagining!). This then paves the way to further genuine communication between us.

So in Shadow Work we try to break our communication down in to:

1) What Actually Happened.

2) Our Judgements/opinions/thoughts/ideas around what happened.

3) Our Feeling about what happened.

4) Our Boundary – what wasn’t/isn’t ok with us.

5) What we Want from the other person.

It takes a lot of practice to communicate effectively in this new way. I’ll talk more about using this model in future blogs..