Be Less Judgmental

Finger WagI’ve never been good at keeping New Year’s resolutions.

When I was younger, I used to set all sorts of goals for the upcoming year only to forget what the heck I said I was going to do just a month later. A few years ago, I jumped on the “3 Words” meme started by Chris Brogan in 2006 and published a blog post proclaiming that Marathon, Sideways, and Backpack were my 3 words for 2010. In 2011, my 3 words were Care, Ship, and Breathe. This past year, I forgot to do my 3 words.

You see, even with three words – three major “themes” – I found that it was too much. I never followed through. I never printed them out. Heck, I never even re-read the blog post. A few weeks after I “told the world” about my 3 words, I could not even recall what they were.

So …

This year, I’m really simplifying things. One phrase. One resolution. One goal. One thing that I can – I hope – stick to for an entire year … if not the rest of my life.

Be less judgmental.

Judgmental: Defined

One of the two Merriam-Webster definitions of the word judgmental is: characterized by a tendency to judge harshly

Most of us pass judgment on others all the time, often without even realizing it.

We observe a behavior we don’t agree with. We pass judgment.
We see a picture of someone online or in the media. We pass judgement.
We hear a story on the news or read something on social media. We pass judgment.

I do it. You do it. We all do it. Every day. Many times per day.

However, passing judgment is not always a bad thing. Sometimes our judgment is what keeps us from making a bad decision. That initial judgment or “gut feeling” we have is almost instinctual. I’m not convinced we can really control it. It just happens. While I’m no sociologist, I think we all pass judgment based on our biases. These biases are based on opinions we form – opinions which are influenced by many things including our upbringing, religion, race, socio-economic status, political beliefs, and so on.

The bottom line is that we judge people and situations because of our own experiences.

Judging vs. Being Judgmental

There is a difference between judging and being judgmental.

My own definitions go something like this:

Judging is that initial feeling you get when you encounter a person or a situation. In many cases, it’s the gut feeling you have. “Judging” allows you to quickly assess before deciding your next move. It’s something that we all do and have little control over.

Being judgmental is taking that initial judgment and acting on it. It’s what you do or say or think next. It’s when you pass judgment on someone or something without really knowing the full story. It’s when you fail to keep an open mind. You close the door to other interpretations.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my friend Tom Webster. I can’t recall the exact details as it was about 3/4 of the way through a martini Tom poured while chatting in his NC apartment late on the evening of September 6th, 2011. However, I do remember Tom talking about judging others. You see, Tom is someone who takes people for who they are. While not perfect, he does his best to not pass judgment on others … until he knows the full story.

And that’s the rub. Too often we don’t really know the full story before judging.

It’s easy to criticize someone for putting their child on a leash (something I’ve done plenty of times – plenty) … without understanding why they are doing it. Maybe the child has some sort of special need that make leashing them necessary. Who knows?

It’s easy to judge someone for their stance on “gun control” (which I have) … without really knowing why they feel the way they do. Maybe they have a good reason for feeling that all schools should have armed guards. Who am I to judge them?

So, starting today – January 1, 2013, my “resolution” will be to be less judgmental.

I vow to be more open-minded and not immediately place judgment upon others until I understand the full story. If it’s not possible to learn the reasons why they do what they do or say what they say … I’ll just let it be. It is what it is, right?

Who is with me?

**Jan 2, 2013 Update** – Tom Webster (referenced above) tweeted this:

I totally agree with Tom that being less judgmental is “a practice, not a switch you flip.” He also shared that, “most importantly–don’t judge yourself when you ‘fail.’ That’s part of practicing.”

Thanks for the clarification! Already, just 1 day into my “resolution,” I’m finding that it’s tough to just be less judgmental. Work in progress!

DJ Waldow
Waldow Social