Making judgments is necessary.
First, we need to determine when making quick judgments is useful and necessary, and when it is inappropriate or harmful.
Our life experiences allow us to make quick general assumptions in order to survive in the world and save time. We don’t have the time to thoroughly get to know every person we meet or to completely analyze each situation. So we make certain assumptions from a myriad of subtle clues, such as the way someone talks, dresses, moves, and glances around the room. Our assumptions may be wrong, but on the whole they save us time and often avert danger or disagreeable circumstances by enabling us to make quick judgments based on intuition and the given circumstances.
Imagine being interviewed for a job by someone who cruelly reprimands her secretary right in front of you. While she may be responding to other stresses in her life, your quick decision or judgment not to work for her may save you a lot of heartache in the future.
Now imagine walking down a dark city street and approaching several young men in pants sagging to the ground walking with a tough-guy swagger. While these young men may be on their way to the library and pose no danger to you, through experience, you may conclude that young men dressed that way are more likely to be dangerous than a group of older women dressed in suits. While such stereotypes may not be a reason to arrest someone, they may be a reason to remain alert.
Harsh judgments or intolerance is destructive.
It is important to avoid overly severe or disparaging judgments. When we judge harshly and treat other people with hatred, contempt, or intolerance, then we are causing ourselves to live in a small-minded state of fear which diminishes our well-being as well as that of others around us.
“When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself”
Intention and balance are key.
Yet we deceive ourselves if we think we can live with total tolerance and thereby avoid making judgments. Very often, especially in critical moments, we don’t have time to gather full information; nor do we need it. In fact, we would be naïve, waste time, and harm ourselves if we stopped making judgments, including snap assessments.
Throughout life, intention and balance play key roles. Depending on the circumstances, if we balance tolerance with discernment, understanding with self protection, and our past experiences with an openness to the unexpected, we are probably on the right track.
Avoid being overly judgmental toward yourself as well.
Ironically, when you say that you hate it when you’re judgmental, you are being judgmental about yourself. The implication is that you are bad or hateful. That is overly-harsh, which is not the most effective way of adjusting your judgments. If you are trying to become more tolerant, then be more understanding toward yourself as well. Don’t punish yourself for a natural process of learning from past experience. Just attempt to be less severe in all your judgments.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD