Despite our best efforts, we all judge others. It might be over small things, like a co-worker who took too long during a lunch break. Or it might be other issues, such as a person who behaves selfishly or hurts our feelings.
Imagine you are waking through the woods and you see a small dog. It looks cute and friendly. You approach and move to pet 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.
What can we learn from this story? How can we be on less judgmental?
Don’t blame yourself. We are all hard-wired for survival. When we see a dog (or a person) that might bite us ( literally or metaphorically), or course we feel threatened. We go into fight-flight freeze mode, and are unable to see the countless reasons for another’s behavior. We get tight or defensive. This is a normal first reaction. The key is to pause before we act out of this mode.
Be mindful. Although judgment is a natural instinct, try to catch yourself before you speak, or send that nasty email and do any potential harm. You can’t take your words back. Pause. See if you can understand where the person may be coming from. Try to rephrase your critical internal thought into a positive one. After all. Like that dog in the trap, we really don’t know the reasons for someone’s behavior.
Don’t Judge me because you don’t know half of what I survived.
Depersonalize. When someone disagrees with us or somehow makes our life difficult, remember that it’s typically not about us. It may be about their pain and struggle. Why not give others the benefit of the doubt? Never underestimate the pain of a person. Will Smith said “because in all honesty, everyone is struggling. Some people, are better than hiding it than others.
Look for the goodness. This takes practice, as our mind scan for the negative, but if we try, we can almost always find something good about another person.
Repeat the just like me phrase. Remember, we are most alike than different. When I feel critical of someone, I remind myself that the other person loves their family just like I do, and wants to be happy and free of suffering m just like I do. Most important, that person makes mistakes, just like me.
Reframe. When someone does something you don’t like, perhaps think of it as they are simply trying to solve a problem in a different way than you would. Or maybe they have a different timetable as you. This may help you to be more open-minded and accepting of their behavior p. People take different roads seeking fulfillment. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.
Look at your own behavior. Sometimes we may be judging someone for something that we do ourselves, or have done. For example, the next time you find yourself yelling at someone while your driving ask yourself. Have I ever driven poorly? Of course we all have.
Educate yourself. When people do things that are annoying, they may have a hidden disability. For example, some people have poor social skills like me (because of my childhood). So if someone’s invading my personal space I tend to get upset. But if you take the time to get to know me, I’m very kind and treat people with respect. Just sometime I get it out in words but actions. Remember everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it’s stupid.
Give the person the benefit of the doubt. Someone once told me. No one wakes up in the morning and says “I think I’m going to be a jerk this today.” Most of us do the best we can with the resources we have at the moment.
Feel good about you. If You feel good about your parenting, you have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If you feel good about your body, you shouldn’t go around making fun or other people’s weight or appearances. We are hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.
And finally remember that judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who you are.