judgment: customer, agent or arbiter

I recently read Paul Graham’s essay on judgment (Graham’s essay. In short, his claim is while we grow up dealing with people judging us based on our performance, our progress, our potential, our achievement, etc etc, once we’re grown up, especially where it really matters, people don’t judge us that way. They judge us based on their life, their needs, what matters to them, how we can help them, how we fit into their world. The judgments are less and less about us and more about THEM!

I liked how he used the term customer to represent this latter judgment. Once we realize other people around us are judging like a customer, we automatically recognize, correctly, they are in charge of their own judgment. If their judgment is bad, and we are judged poorly because of it, it doesn’t matter. They are the customer. It can’t be that their judgment is bad, because to them, it’s perfectly correct!

An arbiter (a judge, and sometimes a teacher or a supervisor) is different. Why? Because they are in some way responsible, to you, for making a correct judgment. Thus, they dig in a little more. They would tend to give your ‘case’ a more ‘fair hearing.’ Imagine a teacher who dislikes a certain student. However, one can fairly assume, the teacher will accurately assign grades to a report card of that student at the end of the school period.

I also think with both customer judgment and arbiter judgment, we can see where the agent becomes valuable. Whenever you deal with a customer, it makes sense to consider an agent. An agent is more likely to understand what makes up the body of the customer’s judgment. An agent also is more free, and more experienced, at fishing the customer’s judgment and at appealing to that judgment on your behalf. Even with an arbiter, an agent may be better suited to do your bargaining.

I think it’s also worth pointing out that ‘customers’ lie. What’s more is this lying is not only permissable, it is completely natural. A customer is doing the judging, so when prodded to reveal their body of judgment, they are being prodded into a reversal (where their judgment is then judged). Customers don’t have to comply. What’s more, customers are people and people are emotional and emotions are irrational. Therefore, even if they want to be truthful, they may be, and likely are, still lying. Lying is a harsh term. In reality judgment varies like the wind. But people (customers), when asked about their judgment, articulate an answer that is static. Thus, by nature they are ‘lying’ at least some of the time.

Let’s say a company is hiring. Even for a single position, at different times the criteria for being hired will vary over time, depending on demand, on number of applicants, and, yes, on a whim! The company doing the hiring is a customer.

Same for dating

Same for homebuying

Same for major promotions

Same even for friendship

Another point to make is how important it is to separate self-worth from others’ judgment. Unless you like roller coasters and lots of mystery regarding how you’re going to feel about yourself tomorrow, the day after, and the day after!

Another point is to remind yourself everybody is a customer, all the time. Even when and if they aren’t, you’ll do better thinking they are. There are lots of upsides to this, too. First, if everybody is a customer, we can ask ourselves what it is they want. We can remember what works and what doesn’t…for them, that is. We can ‘help’ a customer arrive at the decision we want them to make. In return, we have a better shot at that customer judging us positively and acting accordingly (whatever that may mean).


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