This is a guest post by Malia Keirsey, an independent author and guest contributor for writing service getacademichelp.com from Chicago. She is passionate about blogging and writing on different topics, such as inspiration, motivation, marketing, education, etc. Follow her on Facebook.
Have you ever watched an obese person in a restaurant eating food that would be a “no-no” on a diet and be saying to yourself something like, “That person has no self-control!” Or how about watching someone on a highway, speeding and changing lanes and saying, “That guy’s an idiot!” We all do it, and that constitutes being judgmental.
I pretty much know how I became so judgmental.
I became that way, as most all of us do, by growing up in a specific environment/lifestyle and coming to believe that our environment/lifestyle was right and good.
By contrast, all other environments were not as right and good. Becoming judgmental was easy – it’s easy for all of us. We don’t understand those who are different from us, who don’t meet our “standards,” and so we automatically judge their lifestyles, their behaviors, their values, etc., as somehow wrong or inferior.
The interesting thing with all of this is that while we are judging others, we are also being judged by them.
I can remember older relatives judging my clothing styles and my makeup; I can remember some of them judging my selection of sociology as a major – they wanted me to choose a career where I would earn more. And while I condemned their judgmental traits, of course, I didn’t judge myself for doing the same.
The Thing about Judgement
My “awakening” came on a Sunday morning my sophomore year in college.
I was flipping through channels on the TV to find something to “sort of” watch while I cleaned my room from two weeks’ worth of clutter, trash, and dirty clothes (interesting how I didn’t judge myself to be a slob). I landed on PBS (Public Broadcasting Station), and they were having one of their fund-raisers. If you have never experienced this event, I urge you to tune in sometime.
They bring in great talent to entertain and ask viewers to call in and make a pledge to help fund their next year. Sometimes those pledges can be in the form of purchasing CDs of something that has just been heard (a music group or a speaker), with an amount of that purchase going to the network. I am a big fan of public broadcasting and think everyone should be. But I digress.
This particular morning, there was a man speaking – his name was Wayne Dyer. So I left him on while I began the pretty enormous task ahead of me. The title of his “lecture” was “The Seven Faces of Intention,” after a book of a similar name. He was quite engaging and passionate. What stopped me in my tracks, like the proverbial deer in the headlights, was a single statement:
“When we judge someone else, our judgment does not define that person. It defines us as someone who needs to judge.”
I sat down on the edge of my bed and began to listen more carefully. He gave some examples of things that we do and say that are judgmental, and I saw myself pretty quickly.
By the end of Dyer’s lecture, I was on the phone buying the CD and ordering his book. And this was the beginning of my journey into non-judgementalism (This is not a real word, but it works).
That beginning was identifying myself as being someone who needs to judge.
The Journey into Non-Judgementalism
It’s not an easy journey because old habits “die hard” as they say. Still, it is one that everyone should take, because, in the end, you will be happier and much more at peace.
In fact, a study, published in Mindfulness magazine in September 2010, showed that people who are less judgmental have less anxiety and depression than those who do judge others.
So do this for yourself. Here are some tactics that I have found helpful.
1. Be Aware of Your Judging Behaviors.
Have you ever listened to a politician speak and said to yourself, “He’s an idiot!” What you are really saying is that you don’t agree with his views. Maybe you have watched a parent-child interaction in a store and said, “What a terrible parent!” Admit it – we all do this.
But this is the beginning of the journey – recognizing that your disagreements with others bring out some need to condemn them.
Catch yourself when you mouth or say these things and re-frame the words.
Start saying, “I don’t agree (with those words or behaviors), but then I am not that person.” Or “I would not choose that (approach or belief, etc.), but I am not that person.”
2. Build Your Own Self Up.
Often we judge others to make ourselves look or feel better.
People who have good self-images and who are comfortable in their own skin tend to judge less.
Instead of focusing on others, focus on yourself and becoming the best that you can be. As you do this, you will become less judgmental of others, because your focus is on you, not them.
For example, the behavior of many students in colleges and schools. It’s all about self-doubt when they can’t reach own goals. They could ask for help in studying anyone, but they’re going smash instead.
3. Develop Empathy.
Empathy is simply the act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing the “world” from their perspective.
The more empathy we have, the less judgmental we are. We may not know anything about the past and the baggage that others carry. Their experiences and motivations may be very different from ours.
Adopting the attitude that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have to work with is so liberating. We can observe without judging, and that’s a good place to be.
4. Curb the Gossip.
Whether it’s in school or in the workplace, gossiping is negative and destructive.
And there may not be any way to avoid being around others who do gossip. It’s easy to get caught up in judging the person who had an affair or the way someone dresses or something as simple as a hairstyle.
Everyone else is laughing and judging, so why not you too? Just stop it. Don’t participate or leave the situation.
This behavior has no positive outcome and doesn’t “grow” you as a person. Remember, your focus is on being a better you, not on anyone else.
5. Be Mindful of the Words You Use.
“Should” is a judgmental term. One of the 12 steps of alcoholism recovery in the AA program is to stop judging others. And this step focuses heavily on not using the word “should” when reaching out to others in a helping role.
When you use the term “should,” you are imposing your values on someone else. Rather, if in a helping role, use the word “could.” Present options. Say something like, “Here is what I do in this kind of situation. It might work for you too.”
In the end, we can only be responsible for ourselves and our choices. And we can only control what we choose to do. We have to let the rest go.
If you don’t agree with that politician on climate change denial, then just know that you disagree and take positive action to ensure that you are not damaging the environment.
You cannot control or change the values, thoughts, and actions of others by judging them. You can only control yourself.