Between the Rows: Inclined to Judge

Should a bad first (or second) impression be such a big deal?

Published online: Sep 08, 2020 Articles, Between the Rows Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This column appears in the September 2020 issue of Potato Grower.

I’m not a golfer. Oh, I’ve played a couple rounds in my life, and I like to go to the driving range and take out my frustration on a bucket of innocent Titleists as much as the next guy, but I’m not a golfer. You know the type: super-tan legs, carries his clubs around in a bag that cost more than your first car, expects—no, demands—absolute silence when he’s putting. (Because heaven forbid someone participating in a sport has to deal with distractions. Please. If a hormone-ridden eighth-grader can be expected to hit a moving baseball with opposing cheerleaders screeching behind him, a grown man can hit a stationary golf ball while his buddies crack stupid jokes.)

Of course, golfers aren’t the only people in our society guilty of being perhaps a little too overtly intense about the things they care about. There’s the guy playing church league basketball who calls off-ball fouls 40 feet from the basket. There’s the farm kid who grows a mullet to prove to everyone at school just how country he is. There’s the Instagram poster who boldly declares “I am part of the problem” because she had the gall to be born with less melanin than someone else. There’s your hunting buddy who loudly and incessantly proclaims that the sinister “they” will have to pry his guns from his cold, dead fingers. There’s the agronomist who thinks he’s qualified to provide financial advice. There’s the neighbor who likes to go to the gym, then run all her errands for the week before going home and changing out of her cute tights and racerback top. There’s your cousin whose four kids all have normal-sounding yet ridiculously spelled names. There’s the guy down the road who switched to organic farming five years ago and never passes up an opportunity to tell you how great it’s been for his land and his business. There’s the writer whose stuff you usually enjoy but who sometimes uses his platform to nitpick about how other people choose to live their lives.

As you can see, I have what some might consider a natural inclination to judge people. In fairness, I think everyone has some judginess in their character. In even more fairness, I’m absolutely certain I deserve at least some of judgment aimed my way.

It’s probably a natural, evolutionary thing, the mechanism by which our species has, by and large, protected itself from danger and achieved its status at the top of the food chain. They say it’s important to make a good first impression, and I won’t argue that. But sometimes I wonder if we wouldn’t do ourselves a favor by being more forgiving recipients of first impressions, patient enough to reserve judgment until the second, third or hundredth impression.

Naturally, if you allow someone to hang around in your life long enough to make a hundred good impressions, there will be more and more opportunities to see the stuff about them you might not have liked in the first place. Thankfully, nature also gifted the human species with an incredible capacity for getting over it. Perhaps the most vital ingredient for a successful society is individual acceptance that no one—not a single, solitary soul—is going to live every aspect of their life in a manner that will meet with your approval. If perfect alignment with every value and practice was a prerequisite for a healthy human relationship, there simply wouldn’t be any healthy human relationships in the world.

This all, of course, applies to our industry’s relationships with everyone up and down the supply chain. Your biggest commodity buyer might get a little loud after a couple drinks every time you go out to dinner together. Burger King and Chipotle may air ads that overtly criticize the farmers who supply their empires. Consumer groups will continue to gripe about sustainability even as farms continue to grow exponentially more food on less land with fewer environmentally harmful inputs. None of those is a good enough reason to sever any of the very valuable connections you—and likely your parents and grandparents—have worked so hard to build.

So please: Feel free to judge. Just make sure the sentence isn’t too harsh.