Writing a blog post every week forces me to constantly be on the lookout for interesting subject matter, so whenever I notice an interesting choice of words, my first thought is usually “how can I turn this into a good blog?”

Such was the case this past week, which I spent in Ottawa, partaking in the first of the four courses in the Third Party Neutral (TPN) training program, given by the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution (CICR).

Because I often deal with various members of a business family, to help them get through some of the sticky issues that they face together, remaining neutral is a huge plus. Even the perception that I am taking sides can quickly work against me.

When a family brings someone in from the outside to help them, it is the outsider’s objectivity that is usually cited as one of the biggest resources that they bring to the table. Unbiased, neutral voices are often not present when everyone who is involved has a lot at stake.

The interesting word choice that piqued my curiosity was taken from a list of the Principles of the Third Party Neutral process, principle 7 (of 9): Judgement, Not Judgement.

My first thought was about spelling, but this couldn’t be about whether we went with “judgement”, with the E, or “judgment”, without.

Dsimissing that, my mind quickly went to work to try to figure out what this was supposed to mean, and it soon became pretty clear, despite the ironic juxtaposition.

I like to think that I have good judgement, but then again, most of us self-identify that way, in the same way that studies show that a large majority of people consider themselves to be better than average drivers.

The first use of the word “judgement” in the TPN Guidelines was clearly a reference to this version of judgement, i.e. using your judgement, thinking before acting, giving things proper consideration before deciding, that kind of stuff.

The second “judgement”, the one that follows “Not”, is the bad kind. Whereas the first one, the good one, the one you are supposed to have and use, makes you think of the quality of being “judicious”, the second one is all about being “judgemental”

While doing my CTI coaching courses a few years back, one of the first things we learned was the importance of listening. We talked about “active listening” and “level 3 listening”, but the biggest take-home message for me was that we needed to master the ability to “Listen without judgement”.

Let’s look at some definitions I found online for “judicious” versus “judgemental”.

Judicious: having, showing, or done with good judgment or sense

Judgemental: having or displaying an excessively critical point of view.

Most business founders who have been successful in building a company have been blessed with the quality of being very judicious.

Unfortunately, sometimes the success that they have achieved leads them to believe that they are also blessed with the gift of knowing what is best for others, and some become judgemental as well.

They don’t necessarily go around and tell everyone what they should be doing. They don’t have time to do that with everyone, so they concentrate on those close to them. You know, the ones that they love; their family.

Therein lies one of the reasons that the founder of the family business is not often the one who sees the need to bring in an objective third party.

You may think that this comment from me comes off as judgemental of business founders, and I would not likely successfully refute that argument.

Being neutral is hard work, especially for humans. The TPN program is all about being the custodian of a Neutral Process, lead by a human who has been trained in guiding that process.

The best way for me to be of service to these families is to check my biases at the door, and I am constantly working on the skills required to do that.

In the coming months I will be doing the TPN 2, 3, and 4 training, and I will be sharing more about this subject going forward.

Questions, comments? [email protected]