Do you have a judgment-free zone?

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My Mom spent the last part of her career as a Patient Care Supervisor for her local Hospice.

If you are not familiar with Hospice, it helps patients and families through the last stage of terminal illness, including the process of death itself.

People would often ask my Mom: “Isn’t it depressing to work around death and dying all the time?”

She would explain that although it was difficult to get to know patients and then watch them pass away, it was also uplifting to work with a group of people who made a profound difference on entire family systems on a daily basis with one of the most powerful rites of passage in the human experience.

When I spent time at my Mom’s office, I would watch nurses and support staff giggling together. My Mom told me that in staff meetings it was not uncommon to have tears balanced with hysterical laughter at morbid humor.

For people on the front lines of death and dying, it was critical to have a judgment-free zone.

A judgment-free zone is a place where you can express exactly what you are feeling without censor.

In a judgment-free zone, you can:

  • Talk about how terrified you are to change a long-time behavior
  • Share how you are sure everyone thinks you are an imposter and a loser
  • Curse
  • Babble incoherently without apology
  • Forget how you should appear since have a law degree from Harvard and just be who you are
  • Share how fricking hard it is to be a parent sometimes
  • Share how lonely it can be to be single sometimes
  • Share how your relatives drive you crazy sometimes
  • Dance around the room and celebrate your accomplishments
  • Say with joy and reckless abandon (to real and imagined critics) “Do you know who I AM?!?”
  • Use really big words
  • Use slang that would make your teenager cringe with embarrassment

Get the gist?

For obvious reasons, it is not easy to find a safe judgment-free zone.

I often meet people who are well-known and respected in their field of work. They worry that if people knew they questioned their ability to write a new book, or feel shame at spending so much time away from their family, or are at war with the shape of their body, they may be judged harshly.

I think they are right.

People do judge. That is in our basic human nature.

No Share Zones

In the age of over-sharing, there needs to be a place where you can express your feelings in a healthy manner so you can work through them and get back to doing epic things in your life and career.

Judgment free zones are enhanced by clear agreements. When you are with people in this way, you should all agree to keep confidence.

Or as my 6-year old son Josh is saying to me more and more frequently:

“Mom, DON’T put that on Facebook!” (and he can’t even read yet).

I will go out on a limb now and say:

If you are not doing something right now that scares the crap out of you, you aren’t fully living.

Truth feels scary.
Acting on the power that you have inside of you feels scary.
Standing up to injustice feels scary.
Working on a broken part of your life feels scary.
Creating something epic feels scary.
Being a parent feels scary.
Creating something beautiful feels scary.
Helping and healing the world feels scary.

If you have no one to trust with your fear, you are making things more difficult for yourself than they need to be.

So start by finding one person that you feel really comfortable with. Create a time, place or forum where each of you can have a no-holds-barred judgment-free zone.

Go crazy. Enjoy it.

And watch your power grow.

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21 Responses to “Do you have a judgment-free zone?”

  1. I LOVE this Pam. I’m sharing this with my tribe. 🙂

  2. Wendy says:

    “If you are not doing something right now that scares the crap out of you, you aren’t fully living.”

    Brilliant! Exactly what I need to hear right now. I’ve been given a chance to grow in my career this year and it’s exciting and terrifying at the same time!

    Thank you for writing this.

  3. When you find yourself ALWAYS in a “judgement zone”, it is likely time to find a alternate or new zone. Points were very well made, Pam.

  4. What a GREAT article! I often refer to my life as 80/20 because only 20% of the people who know me really see ALL of me… I am so grateful that I can truly be myself with that 20%! EVERYONE needs a judgment-free zone in their life! If you have no place to fail safely, then you will just fail in bigger ways later down the road!

  5. BravegirL says:

    I am so lucky to have a very good friend with whom i share the most amazing ” nonjudgement” zone. It makes all the difference.

  6. The good news is I’m doing a LOT of things that scare the crap out of me right now … most days I love it all. Unfortunately, have yet to find a judgment-free zone, at least not in human form. My dog Lucy however, now SHE knows how to listen without judgment … has the “I adore you no matter what you do!” look and the inquisitive head tilting “I’m listening to every single word!” thing down to a fine art.

  7. Vishal Patel says:

    First and foremost I’m going to say that a lot of stuff if not all of Pam Slim postings are very inspirational to me. I started two blogs after reading Escape From Cubicle Nation and aggressively started looking for a better job. Reading this post hit me in a good way. Two weeks ago my boss pulled me aside and was very upset at me for finding a way to do my job more efficiently. He basically judged me and threatened to fire me because of this. I told him that I thought it was a time saving way to do this task. (The task was taking seventeen hundred items in our system and unchecking a check box if it if the item was a return.) I thought I was doing the right thing and felt proud that I found a much faster way of doing this task. However, because of this situation I maybe losing my job because it wasn’t the way he wanted it to get done. It hurts even more is that whenever I think of some idea and tell my boss he’ll tell me it is dumb and then do it anyway and pawn it off as if he thought of it. I started becoming proactive in networking in New York City. It does scare me to go by myself but I realized it’ll make me stronger. I started putting myself out there especially in positions that I would normally feel uncomfortable in just over come the feeling of being scared. Reading this post just confirms what I am doing will work.

  8. Margot says:

    Wow. Lots of food for thought here. I understand the commenter who said no one can be judgement free. But I’m also thinking you have to try. There is a terrifying leap of faith to take when you drop all your defenses and just say what you want to say. An exercise in trust, and once it’s out there, you can’t ever take it back. That is terrifying and I can only imagine liberating.

    Thanks for the thoughts. 🙂

  9. Jackie says:

    Love this. Thank you for being so real and offering such truthful wisdom. It seems with the whole law of attraction stuff people are afraid to have melt downs or appear like a scared little kitten for messing with the universal vibration. However, it’s so important to look at the scary monster stuff – not dwell, but have a peak and look at it so that you can collect yourself, take a deep breath and keep movin’ forward. Thanks again Pam….love your articles – happy to say I’m a big Canadian fan!

  10. “If you are not doing something right now that scares the crap out of you, you aren’t fully living.”

    One of the best quotes, ever. Nice post, Pam.

  11. I’m all for living. Nothing beats that feeling when you are looking after the event and consider yourself to have “dodged a bullet” so to speak! I echo Michele’s choice that “If you are not doing something right now that scares the crap out of you, you aren’t fully living.” says it all.

  12. “If you are not doing something right now that scares the crap out of you, you aren’t fully living.”

    Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. Describes it perfectly.

    I’ll call you later, cuz you are my judgment-free zone go-to gal.



  13. fas says:

    no one can be judgement free ever.

  14. Ali Davies says:

    For me, this is all about finding a place in our lives where we can be real. As you point out, we need to find folk we can be real with, but I think the first step is to get comfortable being real with ourselves. Being Ok that sometimes we are less than happy with something about ourselves. Then committing to doing something about it.

    I love your comment about scaring the crap out of yourself. Such an important skill to master!!! It is important to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable!!!

  15. Great concepts, Pam. I got the giggles reading (and imagining): “Say with joy and reckless abandon (to real and imagined critics) ‘Do you know who I AM?!?’”

    I liked your Scary List, as well. I’m in total agreement.

    Thanks for the insight and Permission (capital “P” intentional).

  16. satsumabug says:

    Thank you for the reminder that “If you are not doing something right now that scares the crap out of you, you aren’t fully living.” It’s something I need to remind myself all the time, that being terrified is part of what I want to do.

    I have heard from another hospice worker that her workplace, too, is full of laughter and happiness. She said it was great because no one was pretending and everyone was just their full, real selves.

  17. Seth says:

    Wow, talk about cutting through the bs and getting straight to the point! Pam, you are spot on! I think the most salient point you made is this: “If you are not doing something right now that scares the crap out of you, you aren’t fully living.”

  18. New to you Pam. Just starting to feel like I need to fly the coop. Thanks for the insight and observations. I went to buy my notebook today so I can start to keep track of positive emotions I feel during my current job, and how to manifest more of those feelings.
    I like the idea of a judgement free zone, and look forward to sharing this with someone special!
    Thanks for your hard work. I had the nerve to say to someone today. “I may be naive, and you can call me crazy, but I am just optimistic to think there is something out there for me to do that I have a passion for, and can help others with.” Now the fun begins. To find that journey, and dive in.

  19. John Jantsch says:

    I love that I know you!

    • Pamela says:

      I love you back. It is good to have a non-judgy friend who does great things in the world. 🙂