As humans, we’re naturally wired to draw conclusions from our life experiences at face value. Perhaps, you’re at a party and you see a person by themselves in a corner who seems uncaring about what’s going on around them. You immediately think that you should steer clear of them because they’re probably repulsed by people and will only turn someone like you away. Well, that’s your judgmental brain talking.
But no matter how instinctive judgment is for us, making the effort to go against it and practicing non-judgment can actually change our lives for the better. By being non-judgmental, we become more compassionate and accepting of ourselves and others. It relieves us from the stresses of everyday life and even from depression.
So, what does non-judgment really mean and how can we become non-judgmental people? Read on to find out!
From an evolutionary perspective, our judgmental instincts have actually been helpful to us humans. When we were cavemen, our judging skills helped us to recognize if there’s danger right in front of us which allowed us to survive. If there was another creature facing us, we had to quickly identify whether it can kill us or not, and we act accordingly.
In present times, these threats are no longer the same. However, our brains have yet to catch up. This is why we still actively use our judgment even during times when we don’t really need it.
Going back to the example in the first part of this article, we employ our caveman instincts when we’re scanning a party, and our brain says that there might be potential danger when we approach someone who looks unfriendly or intimidating.
What happens when we’re judgmental?
Well, good judgment can be beneficial to us to the point that it can literally save our lives. But, there’s always a chance that what we’re judging at face value needs more observation and thought process.
When we judge, we have the tendency to make thoughtless opinions or snap decisions. Judging people can mean that we form opinions about them based on appearances, with little accurate insight about who they truly are.
Judging can also cause us to point fingers. Without properly assessing a situation, we can put the blame on the wrong person or accuse someone of the wrong thing.
Judgment and emotions
While our mental abilities are mostly active when we’re judging, our emotions can also affect this process. Whether we’re angry, sad, happy, or satisfied at the moment, it can greatly contribute to how we judge a person or a situation at hand.
Outward judgment often fails, inward judgment never.Theodore Parker
For example, whenever I’m having arguments with my mother, at the height of my emotions, I would think that she has ill intentions of controlling my life or that she’s simply incapable of understanding me. I misjudge her words and worries just because I’m feeling angry and frustrated with her.
But, sometimes, if I dig deeper, I realize that she is only looking out for me and is also longing to be understood.
Compassion over judgment
In the psychological field, judgment is often talked about as the opposite of its positive pole called compassion. Compassion means that we are more accepting of people, situations, and experiences even when they seem bad or difficult to handle. When we’re compassionate, we don’t avoid them or think poorly of them. Rather, we offer them kindness and gentleness.
Don't pass judgement on others or you might be judged yourself.Brian Cohen
But, more than other people, sometimes we are the ones who truly deserve more compassion and less judgment from ourselves. In my case, I sometimes tend to be more critical towards myself than others.
I can be hard on myself when it comes to my mistakes and shortcomings. But, I’m in the process of learning that I shouldn’t judge myself for these things and rather practice more forgiveness and acceptance.
Why we need to be less judgmental according to studies
Being judgmental doesn’t only cause us to make wrong assumptions or assessments; it can also negatively affect our mental wellbeing. In this study, adults were assessed according to their judgmental attitudes and it has been found that self-judgment (judgment towards one’s inner thoughts and feelings) is a strong predictor of depression and anxiety.
On the other hand, another study investigated the benefits of compassion or non-judgment among university students, and the analysis showed that compassion mediates self-reassurance and wellbeing.
This means that compassion allows us to remember our good qualities through self-reassurance instead of judging ourselves during our sufferings. Being reassured then contributes to our wellbeing, making us less anxious about ourselves or the outcomes of our endeavors.
Before you judge, ask these questions
Now that we’ve learned the benefits of non-judgment, it’s important to take a step back whenever we feel the judging monsters creeping in. First, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I judging based on appearances?
- Am I judging based on the past?
- Am I judging based on someone else’s opinion?
- Am I being biased?
- Do I have limited views and understanding?
- Do I have all the information?
- Are my emotions clouding my judgment?
These questions don’t just apply to others, but also to yourself. And, if you’ve got answers to these questions, then you’re more likely to employ better judgment.
Asking yourself these questions will also vastly improve your self-awareness!
Now, let’s delve deeper into the ways that you can practice non-judgment in your daily life.
How do we practice non-judgment?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, going against our judgment may seem unnatural or even detrimental. But, finding balance in terms of our judgment can affect us more positively than it could negatively. Here are some mindful ways to do so:
1. Observe, don’t react
When we’re in a challenging situation that tests our ability to be either sensible or compassionate, we have the tendency to react right away which leads to poor decisions that we may regret later on. To avoid this, it’s better to just sit through the motions and observe what’s happening within and around us. Observe first before speaking or making impulsive choices.
You may use the list of questions above as a guide to observation. This process also requires patience and mindfulness, so make sure to breathe first before anything else!
This tip is also covered in our article on how to not let things bother you.
2. Put yourself in their shoes
For me, misjudging can be countered by empathizing. Putting myself in other people’s shoes allows me to form helpful insights about them that prevent me from judging them negatively.
There was a time when one of my superiors at work lashed out at our team over something that’s actually explainable and fixable. And while my teammates felt on edge and quite angry towards our boss, I thought that perhaps she was just pressured by the weight of her work or the expectations of the higher-ups on that particular project, that’s why she felt that our team couldn’t afford to make a single mistake.
This insight allowed me to be more understanding of my superior. I even talked to her personally and asked if there’s anything that’s been bothering her or if I can offer some sort of help.
Instead of judging her as a terrible boss, I put myself in her shoes and we were able to work it out.
3. Open your mind
Misjudging is quite rampant these days especially when one holds a strong opinion and refuses to accept beliefs other than theirs. It’s okay to have a strong stance on something that you care about, but it’s also helpful if you take a moment and listen.
Broadening our perspectives will allow us to be more accepting of others. It can be as simple as reading a new book or watching a film that’s not your cup of tea. You can engage in conversations that stimulate your brain and allow you to consume new insights. Keep feeding your mind and soul – it allows us to be more open, kind, and compassionate.
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The process of judging helps us make the right decisions, protect ourselves from danger, and survive. But, sometimes, we forget that some situations don’t require our harsh judgment. On the contrary, being non-judgmental can improve our wellbeing, bring us more peace, and allow us to spread compassion around. So, before you judge yourself and others, make sure to choose kindness first!
What do you think? Do you often feel judgmental to others? Do you have any other tips on practicing non-judgment? Let me know in the comments below!