How to Judge Less

Xperience Growthblogposts

By: Carter Williams, Director of Xperience Growth Coaching & Consulting

When we judge others and ourselves we create stress. We all are aware of the mental, emotional, and even physical problems that are associated with long-term stress. Our judgments of ourselves, other people, and situations add to that stress. It’s simple, to reduce the amount of stress you experience, judge less.

Before we can dive into how to spend less time & energy judging, we need to first talk about what we really mean by judgment.

Judging and judgment is the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision, per the dictionary. This translates to labels that we put on people and situations – that includes ourselves. Good/bad, right/wrong, pretty/ugly, worthy/unworthy, smart/dumb… all these are labels of judgment.

There are two main types of judgment:

  1. Moral judgment: actions, people, and character traits. This also gets into personality. It’s about a person or people.

  2. Evaluative judgments: judgment of a situation. This describes events to things that happen.

An article in Psychology Today says that we judge because it’s an efficient way of understanding social behavior and quickly being able to navigate through our world. We are social creatures and we must make sense of our society so we know how to be part of it. So, we judge to size everything quickly.

I shared this idea with coaching & consulting clients of ours and heard a great metaphor as an example of how this works. If you’re driving on the highway and come across someone clearly driving slow, you pass them and might say they’re an “idiot” for driving so slow. Then, moments later, someone passes you fast enough to feel the vibrations from the car. That person is a “moron” for going too fast. You’ve efficiently judged and labeled both drivers – idiot and moron.

If we do this all time, why is judging people harmful for us?

In short, it feeds our ego. Our egos work to define who we are and who other people are and create an order about things. The problem with our egos is that it’s not based on reality. It’s literally stories that we make up in our minds, yet it has a BIG impact on how we think, feel and act… all that gets us the results we’ve experienced in our life.

In his book The New Earth, Eckhart Tolle says the ego creates an illusion of who we really are. He says “that illusory self then becomes the basis for all further interpretations, or rather misinterpretations of reality, all thought processes, interactions, and relationships. Your reality becomes a reflection of the original illusion.”

Our ego, which is based on our “misinterpretations of reality,” is where our judging comes from. We make a determination, create a label, and use that to define the world around us. When I judge someone as “good,” that means that someone else must be “bad.” This can hurt ourselves, our relationships, and even our society.

I have often teased my wife Kristen about her knowledge of 80’s and 90’s pop culture. If I say “wax on” most in our generation know EXACTLY the part in Karate Kid that refers to and will likely give a hearty “wax off” in response. Kristen wouldn’t. And so, I’ve taken joy in giving her pop quizzes on pop culture (of course that I know the answer to) just to see her fail the quiz. Might seem like harmless fun… What am I really getting out of these exchanges? Upon reflection, it’s superiority. In this small corner of our lives, I’m smarter than she is. I’m right, she’s wrong. I get to feel good about myself for being so “smart.” When you look at it deeper, I’m creating micro-cuts in our relationship. I’m creating conflict between us by judging her and me. How many micro-cuts and how much conflict does it take to bubble up to the surface? Probably an answer we shouldn’t find out too often!

Say, though, it’s not Kristen that I’m “smarter” than. It’s someone else that I don’t really care about the relationship. The problem is that your “smartness” is because of their relative “dumbness” about the situation. Your ego gets to be happy until… you come across someone who is smarter than you. Now you’re the “dumb” one. And this happens all day long because EVERYONE is smarter than you about something. How many times do you have to judge yourself as the “dumb” one before your ego decides that you’re dumb? Again, a question that we don’t want to answer.

So, how do we limit or stop judging? Lose the labels. Consider, what is the opposite of bad. On the surface, you might think good is the opposite. However, good is a judgment. It’s merely a different judgment. The opposite of bad or any judgment is non-judgment.

We are not what we call ourselves. We are so much more. That slow driver from the metaphor is not an idiot nor is the fast driver a moron. And you’re no more of an idiot or moron as may be judged by the other two drivers.

Tolle goes on to say: “The quicker you are in attaching verbal or mental labels to things, people, or situations, the more shallow and lifeless your reality becomes, and the more deadened you become to reality, the miracle of life that continuously unfolds within and around you. In this way, cleverness may be gained, but wisdom is lost, and so are joy, love, creativity, and aliveness. They are concealed in the still gap between the perception and the interpretation.”

It takes perspective to know when we are judging and attaching labels. Similar to how I reflected on my pop culture knowledge compared to Kristen, I had to reflect on what I’m really getting out of those situations. When I did, I realized it was all around judging her and me. The perspective that I gained helps me to remove the judgment.

Actions are helpful in moving toward non-judgment. The act of service for the sake of serving is a great way to get closer to non-judgment. So are deepening relationships with people where you see them as a whole person. Spiritual connection through meditation, prayer, stillness, exercise are ways to experience non-judgment.

Judgement = stress. Non-judgement = life. Our success and fulfillment is our judgment call.