My friend shared an article on Facebook with me today that set me thinking on this topic. While the article talks about discrimination based on someone’s English speaking prowess in India, it addresses our intrinsic habit of being judgmental in many other areas.
When the Left tries to be Right
The left part of our brain that dominates logic and rational thinking, does so by separating and classifying information, memories, and our experiences. Which is why when we see a white-haired elderly woman, we immediately classify her as “safe” and “harmless”. This is because our left brain has associated her with a dear grandmother or an elderly aunt. On the other hand while walking through a fairly lonely street in the dark we chance upon a heavyset tall man with soiled clothes, we are careful to avoid him. Our left brain has tagged him as “dangerous”, no doubt thanks to the movies or stories that describe unsavoury characters! Our left brain is classifying and tagging facts for us so we could be safe.
Judging is a process of assessing and evaluating to understand whether something is good or bad for us. We are constantly judging when we eat, shop, dress up, work, or take care of others. Judging helps us take better decisions and make the right choices.
Are you “Judging” or “Being Judgmental”?
Several years ago, I used to work with a colleague. He was charming and friendly, and we got along fine at work. His boss was a good friend of mine, and one day my friend confided something about this colleague that changed my behaviour towards him. Apparently he was misusing expensive office resources for personal use. We all have our own little integrity radar, and mine beeped an alert hearing that. The next day when I saw him speak to a co-worker, I found him a tad patronizing. Slowly, I started putting a different spin on everything that he did, and I somehow realized that I disliked him. I stopped communicating with him unless it was absolutely necessary. I was polite of course, but he realized something was off. Eventually, he left the company and I forgot all about him.
When I evaluated his action of misusing office resources as improper, I was judging him. However when I changed my behaviour towards him, I was being judgmental. It is true that his unethical behaviour was incorrect. However he had many other good qualities that I somehow overlooked, and had this warped perspective where he was concerned.
Today when I reflect about my past, I have been pretty judgmental towards several people in my life. It was not that I only judged their behaviour. I passed judgment on them as people, and concluded and justified my behaviour with them.
The blindside of being judgmental
What happens when we obscure our own view? We don’t get the complete picture. That is exactly what happens when we are judgemental in our behaviour. Thanks to my sanctimonious judgemental high horse, I lost some good employees and friends. I was annoyed with an employee for always being late for meetings and decided that she wasn’t good enough to be a team lead although she was good in her job and had great interpersonal skills. I’m ashamed to admit I thought less of a friend because his English vocabulary was less than average. I refused to regard his enthusiasm and never-say-die attitude. I didn’t think too highly of one of my neighbours when I saw her waking up more than an hour later than her kids and making them wait for their breakfast. However this neighbour in question was a very warm-hearted and kind person.
Being judgemental blinded me in more ways than one.
- It made me lose my objectivity and prevented me from having a holistic perspective of people and situations.
- It lowered my emotional intelligence and my capability to respond positively.
- I presumed I knew it all and knew it better.
- I categorized people, generalized them, and in effect discriminated against them.
Perhaps the most insidious but lethal aspect of judgemental behaviour is the build-up of resentment and a completely distorted and negative persona we create of the other person. Ironically, the one who was negative and distorted was me!
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!
When did I realize the source of distortion? Coaching was the mirror that showed me how warped my view was. In 2013, I decided to become a Life Coach as I wanted to do something meaningful with my life. At that point in my life I was recovering from an onslaught of negative emotions, poor health, and a depleted self-worth. The methodology I learnt was Power Coaching with Mind Kinetics (PCMK™) by CLI.
As the training progressed, I got an opportunity to practise the techniques on myself and others. I also got a chance to be coached. Being coached was huge tidal wave of self-discovery for me. As PCMK™ coaching is all about answering left-brained and right-brained questions pertaining to the goal or challenge in question, I realized that the root of over 90% of my problems was – you guessed it right – being judgmental!
During my training, I learnt about universal truths in the form of Universal Laws. There was one law that hit the nail on the head.
The Mirror Law (Like Begets Like): What you see in others, is a reflection of what you see in yourself. “When we point fingers, we have three others pointing back at us.”
I realized that just as I was being judgmental towards others, I was being judgmental with myself too. And if I could be judgmental, so could others be towards me!
As we pass judgment on others, at a subconscious level we start being judgmental with ourselves. Over a period the cross gets too heavy to bear and we are left with a highly eroded sense of confidence and self-worth.
Discernment clears the fog
Judgment and Discernment are two sides of the same coin. Discernment is what we practice when we make a wise decision by honestly weighing all possible facts.
How do we practise discernment? Ever since the time I have had success in improving my life over the past couple of years, I have been consciously working towards practising better discernment.
- Separate the individual from the behaviour. Don’t personify a negative trait. That way we focus ourselves to consciously respect the individual, at the same time deal with the negative trait in the best possible way.
- If you are a coach, it helps to coach yourself in the form of self-coaching. If you aren’t a coach, you could consult one. Since coaching by design is all about answering questions constructively and objectively, your coach would be able to help you look at the entire issue in a way that helps you find a solution.
- Maintain a journal where you make daily notes of any unconstructive behaviour on your part. If you find yourself being judgmental about someone, or yourself, write down “How” you would be able to release that judgment constructively.
- We are all part of a bigger scheme of things whether we like it or not. I believe we have answers within ourselves if we only look for it. For me, deep reflection or meditation in a quiet place has helped me become more compassionate and empathetic with people.
Release judgement, Unleash positivity
Judgmental behaviour lies at the root of so many problems we face today right from gender and ethnic imbalance, racial discrimination, toxic politics, breeding discontentment and employee disengagement, to stress. The “Us versus Them” mentality that is counterproductive and debilitating us today, is primarily because we pass judgement on people instead of respecting differences. Negative thoughts and negative behaviour create a build-up of toxic stress that further leads to ailments for which the causes seem unknown.
Releasing judgement is not only rejuvenating, it is also critical to our sense of wellbeing. There is nothing to stop us from sprinting lightfootedly towards our goals if we could just let go of this dead weight that is judgement.