It is late in the afternoon, and a father and his five young kids pile into a subway car.  The subway car is pretty full.  It is the end of the day, and people are tired, making their way home from work.  The father of the kids finds a single seat and sits down.  His five kids are visibly frustrated with the number of people around them, and they start pushing one another around, bumping into passengers.  One starts to cry, another gets angry, the third pulls for the fourth one’s hair, and he screams.  

The passengers on the subway car stare at the father who has his head in his hands.  

He is doing nothing and saying nothing.  The passengers are incredulous he is just ignoring his children.

Appalled by the children’s behavior, the passengers in the subway car get frustrated with the kids and the father.  One man finally has had enough and snips, “Hey man, you going to wake up and do something about your kids?”  The father looks up, agitated, and says, “Cut me some slack; I have had a rough day.”  You can feel the hair rise on the rest of the passengers.

Another says, “Don’t be so selfish man; we have all had a rough day!”  As the behavior of the kids escalates, so does the frustration of the passengers.  

As a passenger on the subway, how would you feel about this situation?  What would you want to do?

Now, what if I told you that two days ago, his wife – the mother- was struck by a driver out of nowhere and was killed instantly?

He and his children were taking the subway for the first time to her burial.  Now, as a passenger, how do you feel about this situation unfolding on the subway?  What would you want to do?  And how is it different than before?

This story is a popular example we used in our book The Power Of Curiosity.  It illustrates how easy it is to judge, criticize, and make assumptions when we aren’t curious about understanding someone’s perspective.

We pass people every day and silently judge them for choices they make that may or may not affect us.

Never mind the judging and/or assumptions we make in our most intimate, every day relationships without even thinking about it.

Like in the example above, when we judge or make assumptions we miss out on a lot and it leads to conflict.  It is impossible to understand others, access empathy or compassion if we aren’t first curious.

As you go about your day, personally and professionally, pay attention to how often you are judging others in your head.

That little voice in your head, you may be hearing it right now, is the biggest judger of all.  When you hear that voice pass judgment on yourself or someone else, stop and ask yourself “where is this coming from?”  What makes you think you know best, or what’s right, in this situation?

If you want to build meaningful relationships, at home and at work, it’s important you know how to see, hear and understand others.  Judging and making assumptions prevents you from making meaningful connections.

Take Action:

The next time you hear yourself judging, yourself or someone else, take a pause ..


And replace that judging thought with “what can I learn?”

Getting curious to understand someone else doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them.  

It doesn’t even mean you have to like what they say.  It just means that you will understand what is going on for them: their thoughts, perspective and/or experience.  Isn’t that what we all ultimately want?  

Kirsten Siggins

Kirsten Siggins

Co-Founder of The Institute of Curiosity, Co-Author of The Power of Curiosity, Communication Ambassador for Wealthy Woman Warrior™

We specialize in high-quality conversations that build high-quality relationships. That means we help people STOP reacting (to people, emotions, events) and learn to start RESPONDING to engage and inspire others, especially in emotional or high stakes situations.


Do you have the right tools to be an influential leader?

4 Steps To Building Trust

Have you ever had a successful relationship without trust? This is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately.  I had an experience recently with one of my kid’s coaches.  I was specific about a situation where I explained that my child didn’t feel...

How To Control Your Emotions So They Don’t Control You

Has anyone ever taught you how to manage your emotions? With the holiday and party season officially underway, emotions are running high.  You might be experiencing some sort emotion and not even know it.  This will reveal itself if you find yourself reacting during...

Are You Listening to Judge Or Listening to Learn?

I recently spoke at the University of Toronto.  The focus was choosing how to listen.  Most don’t realize that how we choose to listen and process the information we hear directly influences the outcomes of our conversations and how we build our relationships.  As...