Happiness and Non-Judgment

You’re at a family reunion and your cousin whispers, “Aunt June’s chicken salad is bad.” She means:

a. The dish has been sitting out in the sun and you might get sick if you eat it.
b. The dish has curry in it and your cousin hates curry.
c. This dish can’t compare to the other many delicious dishes there.
d. The chicken used in the dish wasn’t a free-range chicken raised on organic feed.

Judgment is shorthand for a few things: consequences (choice a), preference (b), and standard (c and d). It has its place – it’s not a bad thing to say a book was good, and it could be important to warn someone about that chicken salad. But judgment is vague and makes the listener responsible for figuring out what we mean. If they guess right, no harm done. But if they don’t, well, things can get messy. You might save the day at the family reunion by letting people know to avoid the spoiled chicken salad. Or you might end up just making Aunt June feel bad while depriving curry-loving relatives of the best dish of their lives.