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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner


We are usually not aware of our expectations, but they do their devious work at the worst, most unexpected times. Think of it this way: every disappointment or frustration you experience is a result of some expectation that has been violated or unfulfilled. You expect one thing and something else occurs. Usually that something else is not as good as what you expected, leading to disappointment and frustration.

Three very simple steps can save us embarrassment and hurt feelings.

Stop. When you are confused, frustrated, angry or disappointed, do only one thing-stop! That is the first step and a difficult one for many Westerners who prefer to act quickly. Think about what just happened; think about your feelings and what those feelings are telling your brain. Monitoring the negative thoughts that go through your mind is a great beginning. If you are not sure what to say or do, say and do nothing. Let someone else take the lead or just let the situation pass.

Suspend judgment. The ability to suspend judgment is a critical second step in these early encounters with another culture. However, before you can suspend judgment, you must realize that you are making a judgment, especially a negative one. This requires that you monitor your thoughts.

Catch the negative thoughts and stop them before they slip through and cause damage. This takes discipline and work early on, but the more you do it, the more you will find your experience enjoyable, even fascinating. Moreover, suspending judgment is a life skill that builds and preserves relationships. More important, you will better reveal the presence of Christ in your life.

Suspending judgment does not mean never making a judgment. It does mean that when confused, you keep from making a judgment because you know it is likely to be premature and wrong.

Suspending judgment allows us to keep an open mind, seek further information and pursue understanding.

When a judgment gets fixed in our heads, we close our minds to new information and do not pursue understanding. The negative attributions now become "facts." To make matters worse, we act on those facts.

Americans may see suspending judgment as a sign of weakness-being too hesitant or indecisive.

Duane Elmer, Cross Cultural Connections

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