Why are we so quick to judge others? Are we shocked by their behavior, or just a bit envious because they dare to do or say something we would never do? Perhaps by judging and labeling, we feel superior. However, when the tables are turned and it is we who are being judged, we feel it´s unfair. How could they be so harsh without knowing our individual circumstances?
The truth is we automatically judge strangers by their looks, the way they walk, their attire, without even knowing them. That guy looks like a loser. That woman looks stuck-up. We make assumptions with no background information whatsoever. Instead of trying to find common ground, or who or what is really behind this person, we are cruel in our judgments and immediately try to build walls that separate us.
And it’s not just strangers we judge. We also judge friends, colleagues and family. Often, this judgment is a defense mechanism. We criticize our sister’s extramarital affair because we’re frustrated in our own marriage. We judge a colleague’s lousy diet as a way of hiding our own eating disorder. We reflect on how annoying and wrong our mother’s obsessive cleanliness is, and we do so while scrubbing the bathroom grout with a toothbrush.
But when we stop judging and try to accept others for who they are—and as they are—we begin to find peace and really start listening to people. We begin to understand what is really behind that person we once judged. We can start appreciating others at face value and relate to them as we want them to relate to us.
Read Related: 8 Tips to Help You Stop Being Defensive
4 STEPS TO STOP JUDGING OTHERS
Awareness: Stop in your tracks as soon as you sense you are being judgmental. It will be hard at first, but with practice you will be more aware, and you will start observing instead of just scrutinizing what is wrong with the other person. Ask yourself these questions: What do I know about this person’s circumstances? What would I do if I were her? Why don’t I like this person? Is my judgment founded? Is this person mirroring something I don’t like about myself?
Understanding: Try to understand where this person is coming from, her whole story, and listen. That person who made a remark you didn’t like might have a story to tell. For example, I met a woman who said she was all for the death penalty, while I and other members of the discussion were totally against it. I thought she was cruel and insensitive, but that was before I learned that she had been sexually abused by a serial rapist and had to testify publicly against him. Understanding and listening to the whole story behind someone’s opinions or actions can help us understand them, even if we still don’t agree.
Acceptance: Try to accept people as they are and not in terms of whom you want them to be. This simple act alone will lighten your burden, because when you allow people to be themselves you give yourself that same permission and freedom. You relax and enjoy people and become more accepting of differences.
Kindness: When you find it in your heart to be kind to those people with whom you don’t totally agree or get along, the tension is lifted. People change their attitude if you change yours. Maybe an angry person has a right to be angry, and she just wants to be listened to. The kinder you are, the more her anger and animosity will be diffused.