When We Judge Others

Welcome to the second part of my series on Judgment. Part 1 talked about judging ourselves. If you missed it, you find it here.

Today, let’s talk about judging others. Because, as much as we don’t want to, we do.

It might sound something like this:

  • Sam was late again. He’s never on time. He’s so inconsiderate.
  • Susan misspelled five things in that email. She’s too lazy to bother to check her work.
  • John frowned at me in the elevator again today. He really doesn’t like me.
  • Lisa is so arrogant. She always acts so condescendingly in meetings.

Does any of that sound familiar?

It’s almost like we can’t stop ourselves. We have this running internal monologue that judges and berates other people as much as it judges and berated ourselves.

And that, my friends, is the first real clue – the berating part.

Remember what I said last week about judgment and discernment? When we’re judging, we have lots of negative emotions. When we’re discerning, we’re in touch with our inner wisdom. We are calm and positive, without the anger, frustration, or whatever other feelings we get bogged down in.

So, if you’re feeling negative emotions about someone, you’re usually judging them.

The second thing about judging others is that we are often judging in them what we don’t like about ourselves.

Huh, what? Let me rephrase.

When you judge someone else, you are often judging them for something that you don’t like about yourself.

Oh, maybe it’s not the exact same thing, but I’ll bet it’s something similar.

For instance, I used to judge my father – and others – for being too negative. And don’t get me wrong, Dad was very negative a lot of the time. So, my complaints about him were legitimate, but he used to bug me, get me down and feeling negative.

However, one day, I realized that I could be pretty negative myself. Not as much as he was, but, well, a lot more than I cared to admit.

Once I understood that, I could focus on me being more positive, more accepting, and complaining less.

And a funny thing happened. Suddenly, not only was I being less negative, but Dad’s negativity became more amusing than irritating.

I no longer needed to judge him, because I no longer needed to judge myself.

The third thing about judging others is that we are often making stories up that interpret their actions or inactions to mean something about us.

Take the third and fourth statements above:

Just because John is frowning in the elevator again, doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you. In fact, his frown could have absolutely nothing to do with you.

Same with Lisa. Maybe Lisa appears arrogant and condescending because she is shy or uncomfortable or afraid. Maybe Lisa’s attitude has everything to do with Lisa, and nothing to do with anyone else in the room.

When you judge someone, what are you making that person’s actions mean in relation to yourself? And if you didn’t make the actions mean anything, would you still need to judge?

When you take nothing personally (a la The Four Agreements), your need to judge others magically starts to diminish.

To be clear, not judging other people doesn’t stop us from discerning their behavior, actions, words, etc., setting appropriate boundaries, or making decisions about what kind of relationship we want with them.

Not judging others does improve our own happiness and well-being and provides a much better environment for our relationships with others to flourish.

Sally Anderson, my friend and coach, sums this up beautifully in a recent LinkedIn article:

“STOP making those you work with and or love WRONG! No one wins!”

This week, my challenge to you is to pay close attention to what’s going on when you judge other people. Are you judging yourself? Are you making their behavior mean something that it doesn’t?

I’d love to hear what you discover!


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