I try really hard not to do it, but find myself doing it often. I know it’s not the right thing and it’s not good for me, but the problem is that it’s actively encouraged in the society we live in and organisations we work in.
So here’s my confession – I judge people. Sometimes by how they look. Sometimes by what they do. Sometimes by what they don’t do. Often by what I think they should do.
It catches me out sometimes when my guard is down and I walk past someone or hear a snippet of a conversation and realise that I’ve formed an opinion of them already having never spoke to them or even knowing the context of their words.
This makes me feel bad. But you know what – does it even matter anyway?
When you stop and look it almost everything in our lives invites our judgement.
A huge amount of todays TV programmes – X-factor / Britain’s Got Talent / Big Brother – encourage us to judge people quickly based on very little information and to decide if they’re good enough or not. Whether they are nice people or not. Whether they are winners or not.
Social media: Facebook, Instagram, etc, allow to ‘like’ (or not) our friends photos and comments.
Any time you buy something from eBay or Amazon you are invited to review the product and provide feedback.
This is obviously going to spill over into our work lives and how we view our colleagues, so is it actually doing any damage or is it harmless and we should just stop worrying about it?
After researching judging others on the web here’s some stuff I found…
Judgement often stems from our own insecurities. Someone may have achieved something we wanted for ourselves, or behaved in way that we would not feel comfortable doing ourself, so we judge them in a negative way to avoid feeling inadequate (Source: tinybuddha.com)
When you cast judgement on another, you take upon yourself a huge responsibility for making the correct judgement. (Source: well.com)
Being “right” is so important for some of us. Judgment keeps us from learning new things because instead of listening to someone we’re just listening to see where we’re right. (Source: Huffington Post)
We end up believing our thoughts/judgments and take our thoughts as facts. We believe that person is horrible. We believe the furniture is ugly. We believe the movie was awful. Instead of seeing our multitude of judgments as a perception or as a lens we put on situations, we see it as a truth. By doing this we subliminally create a separation and a lack of acceptance of other’s beliefs. (Source: Psychologytoday.com)
Researchers have found that a person’s tendency to describe others in positive terms is an important indicator of his/her own personality. They discovered particularly strong associations between positively judging others and how enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable the person is described by others. Hence, seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits. The study also proved that if you negatively judge other people, you are viewed negatively by people, in turn. (Source: mensxp.com)
We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. Don Miguel Ruiz
Psychologist Tara Brach frequently tells this story: Imagine you are walking through the woods and you see a small dog. It looks cute and friendly. You approach and move to stroke the dog. Suddenly it snarls and tries to bite you. The dog no longer seems cute and you feel fear and possibly anger. Then, as the wind blows, the leaves on the ground are carried away and you see the dog has one of its legs caught in a trap. Now, you feel compassion for the dog. You know it became aggressive because it is in pain and is suffering.
So yes, the consensus seems to be that judging is a bad thing after all. What does the dictionary say?
The definition of judgement is:
judg·ment Pronunciation[juhj-muh nt] –noun 1.an act or instance of judging.2.the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, esp. in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion: a man of sound judgment.
The second point here contains the missing piece of the jigsaw for me – to form an opinion objectively and authoritatively i.e. based on information, yet with an open mind.
I honestly think that in western society it’s impossible not to judge others, but in order to avoid this becoming a negative influence on our life there are things that we can do.
We can start with not being such harsh judges of ourselves and how good, bad, ugly we are.
We can try to go about our working day with an open mind, and to try to build deeper relationships with our colleagues, so that we at best reduce the amount of judging we do.
Finally, we can be conscious that our judgments exist, and that they may be right, but equally they may be wrong.