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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do you judge people by their phone?

I got a provocative email today asking: "Do people judge you by the phone you carry?" It went on to detail a survey of 1,000 businesspeople that found in part:

* 55 percent of respondents say that if a business meeting participant pulls out a damaged or old cell phone, this negatively affects their impression of him or her.

* Over 80 percent of people say they judge a person to be “frugal,” “not tech savvy,” or “old” if they carry an older phone model.

* 35 percent of people will think a person is “poor” if they carry an older phone type.

I don't judge you by your phone. I probably couldn't tell anything about your phone just by looking at it. Also, I know young adults who prefer dumb phones -- old school clamshell-style phones that don't connect to the Internet -- so I might think you were cool if you pulled one out. But I am old, frugal, and not tech savvy.

A friend who is so savvy that she works in a tech field admitted that she does make those judgments. Of course you would, if that's your field, like I would be very curious about what you're reading. Avocationally, I would notice your shoes too.

The thing is -- and here's where it relates to meditation -- noticing is not judging. Noticing is just noticing -- that person has an old-style phone. Judging is when you ascribe meaning to what you have noticed -- that person is poor. Judgments often lead to feelings; you may feel pity for the poor person with the old phone or think that your savviness makes you superior. And feelings like to actions: You may treat the person with pity or contempt based on your judgment.

This is why, in meditation, we try to notice thoughts without evaluating or judging them. Thoughts that come up during meditation are not good or bad thoughts, they're just thoughts. All of them. If we catch the thought before it becomes a judgment, it hasn't yet got its hooks into us. But if it moves to a judgment, it grows into a story and becomes an action. (I'm thinking about ice cream when I should be meditating ... that's a bad thought... I need to lose weight ... thinking about food won't help me because I have no will power I'll never lose weight ....)

You can practice noticing without judging -- which is, really, just noticing -- any time. Look around you. Notice something. Look for the moment of noticing before judgment arises. Rest there. When notice judgment arising, and see if you can let it keep going. Judgment is a thought too.

I won't judge you by your phone. But I will judge you if you pull it out while we're speaking.