Are you being Learner Tough or Judger Tough?

Marilee Adams

Feb 28, 2022

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On a cold, rainy day last week, a friend arrived for a much-anticipated visit. Upon opening the front door, I immediately noticed muddy paw prints all over her coat. I knew that mud was a messy reminder of the exuberance of our border collie Abby, even though we’ve been training her to “No Jump.” 

Of course, I was appalled and apologized profusely. While my friend was gracious and forgiving, my Judger went into overdrive, a true Judger hijack. All I could think about was what a dog training instructor had told me long ago: “An untrained dog is an unloved dog,” a quote I mentioned in a previous blog about Abby. In truth, Abby is certainly a loved dog and very well trained almost all of the time now. She’s been with us for over a year and in general, she’s doing great. And we still have some work to do with her!

I had fallen into the Judger habit of seeing a small example of something wrong and instantly blowing it up in my mind as if that were the whole of it—and of course, depending on the situation, assigning blame, either to me or to someone else. To finish the tale, I insisted on paying to get my friend’s coat cleaned and that was the end of that. 

Still, that little incident left me musing about words like training and discipline and “tough love.” In Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, I wrote about the difference between Learner tough and Judger tough. And in our workshops, we distinguish between Learner anger and Judger anger. What’s different between each? It’s all a matter of intention. If you yell STOP to a child about to touch a hot stove, love and protection are being fulfilled. When I shout a loud NO to Abby for something, it’s because I don’t want her to do damage—like leaving muddy prints on someone’s coat or running out in the street where she could get hit. I might sound Judger, but it’s Learner all the way. 

What thoughts does all this provoke for you? Do you have examples of Learner tough in contrast to Judger tough in your own life? What about Learner anger in contrast to Judger anger? Have there been times when there was a confusion about these and what did that lead to? I’d be fascinated to hear what these ideas provoke for you.

Written by:

Marilee Adams

Feb 28, 2022

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