Have you ever felt misunderstood? Do you often compare yourself to others? Or are you one to quickly judge? The ability to make judgment is an important part of life; after all we need to judge in order to make educated decisions. In fact, it is this ability that allows us to assess situations that are threatening to us so we may act accordingly. However, these threats are often times not physical in nature but have more to do with our psyche, values and morals. When we face situations that contradict our personal views and beliefs, we feel uncomfortable and seek to reduce the conflict; primarily because our mind looks to maintain consistency and balance. Cognitive Dissonance The discomfort we feel from this internal conflict leads us to react with intense emotions and ultimately may result in making judgmental opinions. So when does judgment go from a survival skill to a hindrance?
When we make judgments, we take our belief and experiences into consideration, but it is an objective evaluation of a situation and not a subjective view of a person. Its purpose is not to criticize, but to evaluate a particular circumstance with the idea to find solutions and move forward. On the other hand, judgmental thinking is close minded and counterproductive. It is based on biases that are deeply ingrained and emotionally charged leading us to harsh criticism of others that ultimately have harmful and unhealthy results. Judgmental Effects Regardless of whether we are judgmental of others or of ourselves, this act stems from feelings of helplessness, anger and unhappiness which we either internalize or project toward others through condemnation. There are 5 key reasons why we are judgmental:
1. Insecurities- When we feel insecure, have self-doubts or suffer from low self-esteem we approach situations to protect ourselves from an already bruised ego. We focus on others and place blame in order to feel good.
2. Envy- We tend to be judgmental of others who behave differently from us and have the courage to step outside the norm. People who are judged by others are those who say or do what we may be feeling and thinking; but do not have the chutzpah to express it. It is the desire to possess the qualities of that person that leads us to place judgment.
3. Fear- We fear people or situations that challenge our belief system and perceive the challenge as dangerous and painful. However, this perceived threat may stem from misinterpretation and personal bias that cloud our view. In harshly judging others, we maintain the fear we are desperately trying to eliminate.
4. Social Pressure- There are times when we become judgmental because we seek to be part of others in a group. So we conform to irrational and dysfunctional decision making in order to maintain harmony and find acceptance within the group we are seeking to be part of. Social Pressure
5. Egotistical- Most individuals who are judgmental have an egotistical attitude. Their frame of reference is self-centered, self-absorbed and highly opinionated; seeing the world as black or white; right or wrong.
Because judgmental views perpetuate dysfunctional thinking that does not promote helpful solutions and sets a negative tone in our life and business environment, it is important to move away from engaging in such opinions. Below are steps you can take to help you avoid being judgmental.
1. Focus on yourself- Focusing on your own thoughts, feelings and behavior so you can assess their source, will help you lead to making judgments and not become judgmental.
2. Stop comparing- While it is human nature to compare yourselves to others, when you do; you can fall into criticism. Embrace your individuality. We are all different and unique; accept yourself and others with the strengths and weakness that make us who we are.
3. Practice empathy- To be empathetic is a sign of strength. In order, to place yourselves in someone else’s shoes, you must experience high self-esteem and positive self-concept. In other words, in order to feel what others are experiencing, you need to feel secure and understand what you are all about.
4. Exercise dignity- Regardless of how strongly you feel about a person or situation; approach with dignity and respect. Understand that respect is very important in any relationship; including the relationship you have with yourself.
5. Be flexible- Allow yourself to be open and flexible to thoughts, ideas, feelings and perception of others. When you are closed up and narrow minded, you are inflexible which leads you away from objectivity and towards making judgmental opinions.
Judgment is a skill that helps us move forward in a positive and successful direction. However, being judgmental comes from an inflexible framework that stifles our growth and development both in our personal life and work place. Take time to engage in the steps that will lead towards an exceptional you.
Dr. Maria Dowling holds a doctorate degree in Psychology, Masters in Pharmacology and an MBA. She is a transformational certified Core Energy Coach and ICF certified.