Judgments help you make sense of the world around you. It is not necessarily bad to judge others. However, most of the time, judgments are made without a lot of context and can be negative in some way. Judging others can increase fears of being judged and can decrease feelings of connection and empathic understanding. Being less judgmental of others can improve both your relationships and your emotional well-being.
Why We Judge
It is normal to judge people and situations. Judging means to form an opinion about someone or something based on thoughts, feelings, and evidence. This often occurs within the first few minutes of meeting someone. When you judge a person, you assess their character in order to determine if they are safe. This is done on a subconscious level as your brain takes in information to decide if you are in danger. This is important to your survival and is instinctual. When you determine there is no immediate danger, judgement is used to compare and contrast. Comparing others helps you determine how similar or different someone is from you or from those you are familiar with.
The Problem With Judging Others
Although judging others is normal, and even somewhat helpful, it can also be problematic. Judging others is a quick process, often based on superficial information. The comparison used to judge is more about you and your own strengths and weaknesses that has very little to do with the other person. Even though a judgement is an opinion, it is perceived as reality. A judgment can be positive as well as negative. However, judgments are most often seen as negative as when you judge someone else as better than you, the judgment on yourself is being less than. Focusing on judgments can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression as there can be an increased fear of being judged negatively by others. Decreasing negative judgments can help increase empathy, compassion, and overall contentment. Below are some things you can do to help you stop judging others so harshly.
When you judge others, it is often based on superficial information, or partial facts. If you can be curious about the person instead, you will be less likely to buy into your automatic assumptions. Curiosity enables you to ask questions and gain information before forming a conclusion. Talking to someone and learning who they are helps you gain more insight into their choices. When you get to know someone, your judgments tend to be more positive and less automatic. Being curious about what others are going through as well as their past experiences, helps you form your judgments with more compassion and understanding.
Notice Your Thoughts
Pay attention to your automatic thoughts. Your thoughts lead to your judgments. Notice what you are thinking before judging someone. Are you feeling nervous, insecure, or upset? Your judgments could be based on your own feelings and insecurities that you might be projecting onto someone else. To make yourself feel better, or to fit in, you might put someone else down and judge them harshly. Although you might think it makes you feel superior, it often causes you to feel worse as it brings out your own insecurities and reinforces the negative. When you notice your thoughts are negative, you can try a thought stopping technique to change them. Picture a stop sign in your head to remind yourself to stop the thought and then try to change the thought to something more positive.
Practicing empathy is a good way to keep your judgments from becoming too negative. Empathy means understanding what someone else is experiencing from their frame of reference. When you are being empathic, you are focusing on the other person from their own perspective, not your perspective. This enables you to be more compassionate. Empathy helps you focus on the ways you are similar to others instead of fixating on differences. This makes it easier to form more positive judgments and let go of the negative ones.
When you practice reframing the way you think about things, your negative judgments will decrease. You may not have control over what happens to you, but you always have control over how you view it. For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you are the one that gets to decide why. You could judge them as a terrible driver that doesn’t care about anyone else. Or, you can assume that they are driving their hurt child to the hospital. When you choose to reframe a situation by viewing it with more empathy and compassion, you are less likely to form a negative judgment.
Mindfulness refers to being fully present in the moment and observing your thoughts without judging them. The more you can focus on existing in the moment, the easier it will be to let go of negative judgments. Sometimes you might judge others based on your own past choices or perceived shortcomings. If you can be more mindful, you can assess the current situation in the present context. This way you can leave past difficulties and future worries where they belong and keep your focus on what is happening now. Being able to recognize your judgmental thoughts enables you to reframe them and view them differently. Meditation can help you become more mindful in your daily life and can help you decrease your negative judgments.
Since your judgments are more about you than the other person, practicing self-compassion can help you let go of negative judgments. When you are compassionate and forgiving with yourself, it is easier to be this way with others. Practicing self-compassion decreases the need to seek outside approval and validation. When you treat yourself with kindness and understanding, you have a more positive outlook. If you feel good about yourself and who you are, you don’t tend to spend your time finding fault with others. Your internal voice can become your external experience. When you are kind and caring towards yourself, this becomes your expectation and view of others.
Judging others can decrease your ability to authentically connect. If you are struggling with letting go of your automatic negative judgments, counseling can help. When you approach others with empathic understanding and curiosity, your relationships and emotional well-being will improve.