Cloud your judgment

Something 'clouds your judgment' if it causes you to not think clearly or in an unbiased way

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Cloud (your) judgment

“Cloud your judgment”—this is a hard one.

“Cloud” in this case is a verb. It means something impairs your judgment. It means that you are not able to think clearly, you’re no longer able to make clear, unbiased, decisions.

We typically use this when someone’s emotions or bias get in the way of good decision-making.

Let’s say you start a company and it’s successful and you want to retire. Who will take your place? Many company founders proudly hand the reins over to one of their kids. They’re proud of having a family business. And often that works out and the company grows and thrives with the second and third generations.

But often it does not work out that way. Sometimes, the founder’s kids are not equipped to run the company. And the founder’s relationship with his kids can cloud his judgment. His relationship with them—his love for his kids, his desire to keep the business in the family—that clouds his judgment. It makes it hard for him to make an impartial, unbiased decision. If he had been thinking clearly, he might have decided an outside CEO is best for the company. But his relationship clouds his judgment, and he incorrectly thinks his kids are ready to take over.

It can work the other way, too. Imagine that at work you just personally don’t get along with someone else in the office—maybe you have different politics; maybe you have different personal styles—your personal differences can cloud your judgment. You might not want to work with that person, you might not want to take that person’s advice, you might not want to listen to that person’s ideas, even when you should. You might let your emotions cloud your judgment. Your emotions prevent you from making unbiased decisions.

I lived through a deep recession, early in my working career. It was 2007, when it all started, and the recession lasted well into 2009. The recovery was long and very slow. I worked in the commercial real estate industry and I was early in my career. And that was a scary time. Every Friday, for a good long time, we came to work wondering who would lose their jobs that week.

I kept my job throughout it—actually even got a better job at the tail end of the recession. But that experience, I can tell you, clouded my judgment in the future. For many of us, who went through this, we were too cautious in our careers and in our investing in the future because we had suffered through that recession.

And at work—I worked in commercial real estate, analyzing investments—for years after, I had to always ask myself, am I being too pessimistic here? Am I letting my emotions, my memory of that recession, cloud my judgment about investments in the future? I even admit now that for many years, I was afraid to look for other jobs; I was more concerned with keeping the job I had, given my experience in the recession. And that was years after the recession was over. Memories, emotions, past experiences can cloud your judgment for a long time.

And then sadly, as we age, memory loss and dementia can cloud our judgment, too. The famous Colombian writer, Gabriel García Márquez , drafted a novella called “Until August.” He worked on it on and off for decades. In his final years, he suffered from memory loss, and he couldn’t finish the work to his satisfaction. He decided the book should not be published.

But could his memory loss have clouded his judgment? Could it be that the story was better than he thought? Could it be that he, at his advanced age, was not thinking clearly enough to decide that the book should never be published? His sons gambled that yes, his judgment was clouded, that yes, the book should be published.

See you next time!

That brings us to the end of today’s Plain English. “Cloud your judgment” is a hard one. I’m not going to lie: this isn’t an expression you’re going to use every day. But it’s the kind of expression that will elevate your speech, make you really sound natural, if you can use it in exactly the right situation.

And that’s why we have the practice area called “Your turn” on the website, right next the transcript of this episode. And that’s where you can write your own examples, your own sentences, with this expression.

And then I will give you personal feedback on it. The reason I love this: you get to practice once, twice, writing a sentence, maybe making a small mistake, then getting it right—you do that here with us at Plain English, and then when you’re in a real-world situation, you’ll have the confidence to use the expression correctly.

And it’s even more important with an expression like “cloud your judgment,” because this one is less common. You’re going to hear this less frequently in your life, so you may as well take the opportunity now to learn it.

Anyway, that’s the “Your turn” tab on the transcript page. You get to the transcripts for this lesson at PlainEnglish.com/664 and click on the section that says “Cloud your judgment” and find the “Your turn” tab.

Great job on today’s lesson—see you back here on Thursday for a new one.

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