passing judgment

The bad habit of passing judgment stands as a paramount hurdle to behavior change – and yet, abandoning it is an indispensable prerequisite for advancing on one’s journey towards professional development.

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What Does Passing Judgment Mean?

From the very moment we encounter someone, an innate response is triggered, prompting us to instinctively process information about that individual and formulate an opinion – either positive or negative – about them.

  • Are they a potential ally or adversary?
  • Can I trust this person, or is their friendly outlook merely a hoax?
  • etc.

Often, such a tendency to pass judgment occurs at a subconscious level, evading our conscious control and awareness.

Behaviors like this exert a profound influence on our choice of companionship, as well as our perception of what is morally right or wrong. However, they also serve as the root cause of personal biases.

Consider, for instance, how we tend to attribute our own mistakes to external factors – we blame others for treating us poorly, or accuse our superiors of giving unclear instructions. Yet, when it comes to the negative conduct of others, we are likely to think of it as a result of their inherent character traits.

On occasion, driven by fear, we may even demonize people – perceiving them as malevolent, thereby justifying our own intent to inflict harm upon them.

Many times, the mere presence of an unfamiliar characteristic in another person – be it their skin color, religion, or nationality – often becomes sufficient grounds for us to pass judgment and deem them as “inferior” to ourselves.

passing judgment

Why Do We Pass Judgment?

To a certain extent, passing judgment serves as a means for us to unravel the motivations behind others’ actions. Specifically, it allows us to seek answers to questions like:

  • “What prompted him/her to behave in such a manner?” or
  • “What factors are causing be to act this way?”
  • etc.

Within the pursuit of these answers, our minds endeavor to comprehend the underlying causes of people’s social behaviors.

Automatic judgments of others’ actions form the bedrock of our survival – by enabling us to swiftly assess situations without expending excessive time/ energy in deciphering what unfolds before us. However, there are instances when our brains engage in a more intricate and deliberate process of evaluation – you may have experienced it when you reflect upon a remark made by a friend or colleague that irked or unsettled you.

Recognizing the existence of this inherent cognitive process is pivotal in reshaping our communication styles and, ultimately, in mastering the ability to refrain from prematurely judging others in the first place.

Why We Should Refrain From Passing Judgment

Under all circumstances, our natural reaction is to pass judgment on those arround us. Yet, when constnatly engaging in such a behavior, we will later sow the seeds of our actions:

  • Negativity: By consistently focusing on the flaws of others, we inadvertently train our minds to perceive only the negative aspects, both within ourselves and in other people. Such a mindset engenders a perpetual cycle of negativity.
  • Isolation: As others become aware of our penchant for judgment, they grow wary and are inclined to think twice before sharing with us. To foster truly meaningful connections, we must learn to accept others – including their imperfections.
  • Stifling self-development: Passing judgment deprives us of the opportunity for personal growth and advancement. It is far easier to lay blame on others than to take responsibility for our own hurtful words. In doing so, we inadvertently stifle our self-confidence and remain blind to areas in which we need improvement.

Do Not Pass Judgment – Without Seeking to Understand First

When it comes to assessing the behavior of others, we often find ourselves making two distinct types of judgments:

  • Situational attribution: This type of judgment attributes someone’s actions to the circumstances they are facing. For instance, we may perceive our co-workers as being tactless due to exhaustion or excessive workloads.
  • Personality attribution: On the other hand, personality attributions ascribe a person’s behavior to their inherent traits. In the aforementioned example, we might hastily label our co-workers as impatient or unkind, assuming such characteristics are intrinsic to their personalities.

Undoing personality attributions often proves to be challenging – as qualities like impatience or unkindness are often perceived as enduring and consistent issues, unlike momentary fatigue or work-related stress.

Consider another scenario: Imagine that you are walking your dog around the neighborhood. You cheerfully greet your neighbors as you pass by, hoping to maintain a friendly rapport. However, one of them fails to acknowledge your greeting.

In that moment, you can opt to judge them as mean or unfriendly, or you can contemplate the situational factors that may have hindered their response. Perhaps they were engrossed in a phone call, stressed out from work and preoccupied, or simply wearing headphones that prevented them from hearing your greeting.

By focusing on situational attributions rather than fixed personality traits, we not only alleviate our own burden of passing judgment – but also facilitate smoother interactions with others in the future.

Research indicates that people tend to lean more toward personality attributions, particularly when dealing with unfamiliar individuals. Conversely, as we grow acquainted with and develop a caring bond with someone, our tendency to pass judgment often shifts in the opposite direction.

Consider your best friend, for instance. If they fail to promptly return your call, do you immediately conclude that they are rude or cold-hearted?

In most cases, the answer is a resounding “no.” Instead, you are likely to consider specific reasons why they were unable to respond promptly, drawing on your deep knowledge of their circumstances. Perhaps they were caught up in a meeting – or tending to the needs of a loved one.

By adopting a mindset that prioritizes understanding over hasty judgment, we cultivate empathy, preserve relationships, and foster a more compassionate and insightful approach to interpersonal interactions.

It is easy to praise or to blame others for their actions, but unless we know their motivation, we really know nothing at all.

Andy Puddicombe

don't judge a book by its cover

Stop Passing Judgment to Enjoy a More Successful & Fulfilling Life

Envision a scenario where your CEO gathers input from subordinates during a meeting to address a specific issue. To one employee, the CEO responds, “Your idea is great,” while to another, he/she remarks, “That’s a good idea.” Yet, when a third subordinate offers their suggestion, the CEO remains completely silent.

How would each of these individuals react?

The first employee would likely feel validated and motivated by the CEO’s approval. The second person might experience a slight dip in satisfaction. Meanwhile, the third one would feel utterly devoid of encouragement or inspiration.

Regardless of the underlying intention, two things are certain in this situation:

Firstly, everyone present in the room becomes acutely aware of the CEO’s judgmental behavior.

Secondly, becasue the CEO assesses and evaluates his/her subordinates’ opinions instead of simply listening with objectivity, it inevitably fosters hesitancy and defensiveness among people when they would like to express their personal viewpoints.

Nobody likes to be criticized. Passing judgment is one of those “subtle” behaviors that repel people, hindering us from accessing greater opportunities for success.

When we fail to appreciate and value others’ efforts to contribute, we can be assured that they will be unwilling to assist us again in the future.

How to Stop Passing Judgment

How can we liberate ourselves from the tendency to pass judgment, particularly when others are genuinely invested in helping with our personal growth?

In his bestseller ‘What got you here won’t get you there‘, renowned executive coach – Dr. Marshall Goldsmith – discussed a recurring challenge his clients faced. Specifically, they often experienced anxiety about how he would perceive their efforts to change. Hence, it was his responsibility to help them overcome this mindset.

Goldsmith emphasized that, during any transformative journey, people are confronted with a crucial decision – they can approach problems through the lens of approval, disapproval, or complete neutrality.

To alleviate his clients’ concerns, Dr. Goldsmith reassured them that he always maintained an unwavering stance of neutrality. He neither endorsed nor opposed their actions. His role did not involve passing judgment on whether their choices were right or wrong, as they had consciously opted for path A instead of path B.

This is very similar to the way a doctor examines a patient. When you arrive with a broken leg, the doctor does not judge you – he/she does not care about why you got such an injury. Whether you stumbled on the stairs or were struck by a car, his/her sole focus is on healing your fracture.

Likewise, adopting a neutral mindset is crucial for personal growth. It entails embracing a non-judgmental outlook toward everyone – especially those who dedicate themselves to facilitating our transformative journey. By embodying this neutrality, we contribute to building up an environment that encourages openness, growth, and collaboration.

Here are 7 suggestions to help you gradually abandon the habit of passing judgment:

  1. Cultivate self-awareness by observing your inner dialogues

Embarking on the journey of non-judgment begins with attentive self-observation. To cultivate mindfulness and self-awareness, invest effort in examining your thoughts, particularly when negative judgments arise about others. Take note of phrases or thoughts such as:

  • “They shouldn’t…”
  • “If I were in their shoes, I would…”
  • “They are truly…”
  • etc.

Once you have acknowledged such thoughts, ask yourself: Why do you feel compelled to pass judgment on the individuals in question?

  1. Take notes of factors that trigger judgmental thoughts

Judgment can manifest in positive or negative forms, both of which stem from assumptions about having complete insight into someone’s behavior. Frequently, when we pass judgment, we arrive at permanent conclusions about a person’s character.

However, it is often our own insecurities that underlie such judgments.

When you catch yourself judging others, seize the opportunity for introspection. What makes their actions trigger discomfort within you? How can you address and overcome these insecurities?

For enhanced efficacy, consider recording your reflections in a journal. Soon, patterns and triggers for judgmental thinking may emerge.

For instance, certain individuals, environments, or emotional states may frequently elicit judgment. Recognizing these triggers is a vital step towards curbing judgmental tendencies.

Read more: Emotional Intelligence – Strategies for Harnessing Its Power

  1. Foster empathy

Empathy serves as a potent antidote to the toxicity of negative judgments – it entails comprehending the perspective of others from their unique background, which allows you to assess people through their own lens, fostering compassion and understanding.

By focusing on our shared humanity rather than fixating on differences, empathy facilitates a positive outlook – while reducing negative judgments. Although truly grasping someone’s exact circumstances may be challenging, striving to be an empathetic and understanding individual remains within our reach.

Reflect upon moments when your behavior may have made others feel uneasy. What factors contributed to your actions?

Perhaps a bad day or personal relationship struggles played a role in our reaction. If that’s the case, don’t worry – we have all experienced similar moments.

  1. Reframe judgmental thoughts

Now, it is time to reframe judgmental thoughts from a fresh, empathetic perspective. Instead of resorting to criticisms, embrace curiosity and the desire to understand. For instance:

  • Judgmental thought: “Employee A is so careless with their job.”
  • Reframed thought: “There seems to be something that has been distracting Employee A lately. Perhaps they are facing some challenges in their personal life, aren’t they?”
  1. Embrace differences

After attempting to comprehend others, practice accepting them for whoever they are. Changing another person is a formidable task – one only they can undertake, just as only you have the power to change yourself.

While it is not necessary to become best friends or even develop a liking, always strive to maintain a non-judgmental mindset and resist allowing negative thoughts to dominate your mind.

You do not have to like what the other person has said or how they said it – but when you focus on what you want to say, and how you can communicate it so that it will be heard by others, you gain control of yourself, your emotions, your thoughts, and your actions.

Jerry Manney

  1. Expand social connections

Expanding your social networks is a long-term endeavor that should yield immeasurable benefits in dismantling judgment. For this reason, seek opportunities to engage with diverse individuals and broaden your social circle. Explore new interests, enroll in courses, or learn a new language.

Connecting with people from various backgrounds, cultures, and belief systems will help enhance your understanding and heighten awareness of the challenges others face in their lives.

  1. Take care of yourself

Remember that no one is perfect, and it is natural to stumble on the path toward non-judgment. Therefore, embrace this reality – and persevere in your efforts.

Your objective is to cultivate compassion toward others, but do not neglect to extend that compassion towards yourself. When you find yourself slipping into judgment, recognize it as a signal of inner pain or insecurity. In other words, it is a reminder to prioritize your mental well-being.

Take the time to care for yourself, offering self-compassion and self-care. Engage in activities that rejuvenate your spirit – whether it be practicing mindfulness, engaging in hobbies you love, or seeking support from trusted friends or professionals. By tending to your own mental health, you strengthen your capacity for understanding and compassion towards others.

From Judging to Evaluating

It’s a common tendency to fall into the habit of passing judgment – some even treats it as a personal pastime. But just like any habit, we can train ourselves to think differently.

The key lies in shifting our mindset from judgment to thoughtful assessment of the situation.

Judgment can hinder our progress, particularly when we strive to become experts or thought leaders in our industry. Making snap judgments can lead to flawed decisions with lasting repercussions. Therefore, it is crucial to rewire our natural reflexes – from a critic to an evaluator.

Engaging in judgmental behavior often prompts us to act on emotions rather than rationality. We tend to project our emotions onto everything we encounter, eventually shaping our overall disposition. For instance, if punctuality is one of your core values, you may expect everyone to be on time for meetings. While this quality is admirable, it can also predispose you to prejudice when someone arrives 10 minutes late to a meeting already in progress.

If you are too hasty, you will perceive latecomers through a negative lens based solely on their tardiness. It doesn’t matter if they are colleagues, superiors, employees, suppliers, or partners; the knee-jerk reaction in your mind is, “They don’t respect my time!”

Now, let’s re-evaluate the aforementioned scenario. Instead of rushing to judgments, take note of the incident and closely observe the latecomers throughout the meeting. Perhaps they will offer an apology for their lateness. Pay attention to any signs of distress or unusual behavior they may exhibit.

When we judge others, we often neglect to delve into the underlying story. Each of us has experienced situations where various factors made it impossible to adhere to our usual routines.

Once the meeting concludes, engage in a conversation with the latecomers and lend them your ear. If they overslept or encountered an unforeseen circumstance, explain the importance of punctuality in meetings – and encourage them to take the necessary steps to prevent a recurrence.

By adopting such an approach, you shift from a judgmental individual to an empathetic listener, ready to offer valuable guidance and support.

Sometimes, being an influencer simply entails lending a helping hand. The perspective we have of a situation can vastly differ depending on whether we are judging or evaluating. By dedicating time to assess situations without allowing our emotions to overpower us, we enhance our understanding of others. This empowers us to form unbiased opinions and make decisions that are free from personal biases.

The common eye sees only the outside of things, and judges by that – but the seeing eye pierces through and reads the heart and the soul.

Mark Twain

stop passing judgment

Learning to Appreciate Others

When someone – be it a colleague, friend, or loved one – offers a helpful comment, it’s essential to refrain from being judgmental. Regardless of your personal opinion about their suggestion, hold back from expressing it. Instead, embrace active listening, respond with a simple “Thank you,” and allow their words to sink in.

Challenge yourself for a week to practice the art of neutral listening. Refrain from taking sides, expressing opinions, or providing ratings/ comments. Let the space be filled with an air of open receptivity.

If you find it too difficult to stick with a plain “Thank you,” change your response into a gentle acknowledgement such as, “Thank you, that’s an intriguing perspective I hadn’t considered,” or “Thanks for sharing your thought-provoking insights.”

After just a week of consistent practice, you will likely witness a remarkable reduction in the daily futile arguments that consume your time at work or home. Should you choose to extend this exercise for a few more weeks, you’ll reap three distinct benefits.

  • Firstly, neutrality will become an ingrained reflex, effortlessly woven into your interactions. It will no longer require conscious calculation or thought.
  • Secondly, you’ll significantly diminish the time spent embroiled in disagreements with others, freeing yourself for more meaningful endeavors.
  • Lastly, people will gradually perceive you as a friendly and approachable individual, even in instances where your viewpoints differ from theirs.

By consistently embracing this practice, you will be seen as someone who welcomes fresh ideas, a reliable confidant for sharing thoughts, and a person who fosters an atmosphere of trust and respect.

Read more: Not Listening – The Silent Killer in the Workplace

Quotes About Passing Judgment

Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof when your own doorstep is unclean.

Confucius

Be curious, not judgemental.

Walt Whitman

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

Matthew 7:1-6

Who am I to judge?

Francis

Final Thoughts

Remember, the path to non-judgment is an ongoing journey, and transformation takes time. Embrace each step you take as progress, even if you encounter setbacks along the way. By embodying self-awareness, empathy, acceptance, and self-care, you should gradually learn to stop passing judgment – thereby fostering a more compassionate and fulfilling life.

Other resources you might be interested in:

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