The Scientist vs The Judge
October 31, 2022
Emotional intelligence requires a combination of self-awareness and self-discipline.  In this article, I’ll be reaching into my big bag of emotional intelligence tricks to pull out a Tiny Tweak called The Scientist vs The Judge.  Without a doubt, applying this tiny tweak requires a fair amount of self-discipline but the impact it can have on your thoughts is remarkable.  Let’s get started with this episode’s real-life story.

The Story
Six months out of the year I live in Tampa in a planned community that includes villas, townhouses, single-family homes, and apartments.  There are pools, pocket parks, restaurants and a few stores scattered throughout.  It’s a densely populated, urban neighborhood with lots of friendly people and lots of friendly dogs.

Each morning I take a walk with my dog Tucker.  For him, it’s an opportunity to sniff and explore the endless trail of scents left behind from other dogs and other people.  For me, it’s an opportunity to get a little exercise, enjoy the beautiful surroundings, and to collect my thoughts for the day.

This morning was particularly beautiful.  We’ve gotten a much-needed break from the humidity and the temperatures are a smidge cooler.  Tucker and I made our way through the community and ended up walking alongside of a beautiful lake.  Along the way Tucker did his “business” so I was glad when I saw one of the dog waste receptacles up ahead.

As we approached, I noticed a pile of poo in the middle of the sidewalk no more than 3 feet from the receptacle.

If you read the recent article called Filling in the Blanks, you may remember the Knowledge Nugget we covered which is; In the absence of complete information, your mind will Fill in the Blanks.  It has to because that’s the way your brain is wired.  It requires complete information.

I didn’t really know why someone would leave dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk just three feet away from a receptacle station that was fully stocked with plastic bags…  But I definitely got to work Filling in the Blanks.  I’m not proud of myself but I immediately started thinking thoughts like:

  • What knucklehead leaves their dog’s poop in the middle of the sidewalk without a care for anyone else?
  • The person who did this must be a complete jerk!
  • It’s incredible to think someone can be that inconsiderate!

You get the gist of my mindset, and I may or may not have included a few four-letter words as I was thinking these thoughts.

Anger is the emotion that activates when someone does something or something happens that violates one of your values or beliefs.  No doubt, in response to my thinking, my Anger had activated.

I definitely believe dog owners should pick up after their dogs.  This is a strong belief I have, especially when you’re living in a neighborhood like mine with lots of people and lots of dogs living very close to one another.

I know emotional intelligence is a practice you have to practice.   So, this morning I decided to use my encounter with the poop in the middle of the sidewalk as an opportunity to practice my emotional intelligence.  I started by Thinking about my Thinking and from there, I incorporated one of the Tiny Tweaks I teach in my program called The Scientist vs The Judge.

The Scientist vs The Judge
When Anger, or for that matter any of your difficult emotions, are active, it can be helpful to visualize yourself wearing a Judge Judy robe or a Scientist’s lab coat.

When you’re wearing your Judge Judy robe, you tend to engage with a sense of righteousness.  Things are right or wrong according to your personal beliefs.  When you are wearing your Judge Judy robe you often make assumptions and are quick to judge situations.

On the other hand, when you are wearing your Scientist’s lab coat, you engage with curiosity.  You are eager to understand.  You don’t make assumptions but instead you ask clarifying questions and consider the possibilities.

Self-awareness is a critical part of emotional intelligence.  So is self-discipline.  If you lack self-awareness and self-discipline, you can’t be emotionally intelligent.  They are both essential to emotional intelligence.

I was aware my Anger was active, and I was aware of my thinking.  I paused for a few seconds and became even more aware.  I was wearing my Judge Judy robe, and this is where the self-discipline came into play.

I decided to exercise some self-discipline by exchanging my metaphorical Judge Judy robe for my Scientist’s lab coat.  Instead of judging the situation, I engaged differently.  I shifted from brewing and stewing over “The knucklehead who left their dog’s poop in the middle of the sidewalk without a care for anyone else” to a very different set of thoughts that were based on curiosity.

First, I wondered if the dog owner had a physical disability whereby, they couldn’t bend over.  That was a possibility.  Then I wondered if the dog that left the poo behind could have been off leash.  Maybe there wasn’t even a dog owner involved.  And finally, without having to go back for close examination, I also considered the possibility it may not have been dog poo.  Perhaps it was from a racoon or another type of wild animal.

If you’ve read other articles, you already know, there is a thought behind every emotion that activates.  By engaging with my Scientist’s lab coat, my thoughts changed and subsequently, so did my emotions.

My Anger that was active in response to my original, judgmental thoughts, became less intense.  In fact, when I considered it might have been poop left behind from a racoon and there was a possibility there wasn’t even a dog owner involved, I chuckled and smiled.  It’s incredible how the human mind and emotions work together.

I am particularly fond of The Scientist vs The Judge Tiny Tweak.  When I think about it, I picture myself slipping out of my black robe and putting on my white lab coat.  Somehow this visualization helps me shift my thinking.

Next time your Anger, or another difficult emotion like Guilt, Fear or Anxiety activates, consider taking a few seconds to pause the explore metaphorically what you are wearing.  If you determine you are wearing your Judge Judy robe, try to exercise some self-discipline and switch over to your Scientist lab coat.  It’s incredible how engaging with curiosity can dramatically influence the thoughts you are thinking which in return have a direct impact on your emotions that activate!