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Judgmental - the merits of avoiding judgements

Iana Avramova

The greatest moral failing is to condemn something as a moral failing: no vice is worse than being judgmental
— Julian Baggini

People are rarely aware of the fact that they are judgmental. When asked if they are judgmental about, 80% say “no” without even realizing how often it is not true. It is only understiod when specific questions such as “How often do you try to complete a person’s sentence?” or “Do you have an opinion (positive or negative) about something you have never tried (e.g. sky diving)?” or “Do you pay attention to what people wear?” are asked. Only then awareness is built about how unconsciously judgmental humans are.

Initially judgment is not a vice or a sin, actually the opposite - it is “the evaluation of evidence to make a well – grounded decision”. A powerful tool that through collection of information and data allows people to reach the most appropriate for them decision. The key elements in this definition of the process of judgment are: “evaluation” and “evidence”. The first one is associated primary with logic and a certain amount of objectivity and the second one – “evidence” – relates to time spent investigating and accumulating facts and figures for evaluation.

In conversational language, the word “judgment” most often carries a negative connotation and is primarily used to categorize people, events and situations accordingly. The act of “judgment” is generally unintentional, without a specific reason and is not related to the nature of the person committing it or the person receiving it. Furthermore, there is no correlation between a person's nature (good, bad, evil, caring ect.) and the frequency of implied judgments. It is all done in a split of a second in the subconscious mind.

The “judgments” are possible due to the existence of prejudices, which semantically have their origin in the word “prejudgment”, which literally means “forming an opinion before becoming aware of the relevant facts”. It is surprising and even somehow unrealistic since humans have all the skills and attributes to conduct well-grounded conclusions based on objective reasoning, knowledge and know-how.

The explanation, according to recent studies, shows that prejudices come from the human need of categorization in order to receive certainty. Most people fear the unknown, the unfamiliar and they will put efforts and energy into relating it to something already know. When something is familiar there is certainty and expectations about behaviors and also coping mechanisms are in place. This process again happens unconsciously, for example when a person shows up, immediately that person is being categorized as male or female, young or old, black or white, without really being aware of this categorization / stereotyping. People judge based on the characteristics of certain categories and stereotypes they have, in order to make sense of the world.

Although being judgmental is a common human trait that cannot be fully changed since it satisfies the basic need for certainty and respectively security, there are advantages that are brought by limiting the use of it. Once more, being judgmental is not necessarily a bad thing as long as people (especially Coaches) are aware of its existence, as well as of the merits of being non-judgmental and can purposely make a choice about their approach towards people, things and situations.

The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence
— Jiddu Krishnamurti

Being non-judgmental opens new horizons and possibilities become unlimited. The more a person is open to the fact that there can be more than one explanation as to why things are the way they are, the more he realizes that the possibilities are endless. This helps staying creative at an all-time high and not being stuck in just one way of thinking.

Naturally, it is questionable if a human can truly be non-judgmental and judgments can be fully suspended but we all can try to put the ego aside and focus on the other person’s perception and understanding of the world and the value attached to this perception. At the end, we are not initially existing for receiving recognition and boosting our own ego, but for building healthy relationships that can lead to enjoying a life in a better and healthier society.

If the merits of being non-judgmental are to be defined, beneath are the most distinctive ones:

1.     By being non-judgmental, a person implies the core universal principals (also a core assertion of coaching): “people are creative resourceful and whole” and they are able to find the best answers and define the best actions they need to undertake in any given situation. Is that not true? No matter how many people advice you when you are in a challenging situation – they all provide you with their “right answer”. No matter how reasonable it is – it is NOT necessary your “right answer”. We all tend to make this mistake and ask ourselves “Why is he not doing the right thing – it is so obvious.” Well, yes but no.  If we want to truly help – we need to get out of our judgements and to support the other persons through the process of becoming self-aware of his inner powers and ability to find and implement his own answers and decisions no matter what we may think of them.

2.     Being non-judgmental makes us happier – accepting that things and people are the way they are, instead of comparing how they ought to be based on personal expectations and perceptions, can make life brighter. When understanding the difference between people and accepting they will exist no matter what a person does, then the element of dissatisfaction and disappointment will be eliminated, which will leave space for more happy moments. For example, we give somebody a favor and expect appreciation, there will be disappointment if it does not happen and hence, the we will judge the person by labeling the as ungrateful, a moron or something else. This will make the us unhappy because there is a gap between how according to the us, the person should behave and the reality. It may also shake our self-esteem (what was not done properly so there is no appreciate). Further, if we are not able to leave our expectations, ego and judgments aside, we may never understand the real reason behind the person’s behavior. Managing and reducing our judgements can have a great positive impact on our happiness and well-being.

3.     Being non-judgmental opens new horizons – when things, people and situations are immediately categorized and stereotyped we impose limitations on our ability of recognizing the endless possibilities and choices. The more perspectives, the more information and possibilities, the more chance for finding opportunities and creative solutions. There is always something to learn from everybody and by being non-judgmental one can create abundance of knowledge floating into his life.

4.     Being non-judgmental spares energy – it can be pretty exhausting constantly being busy (even subconsciously) labelling it all as good, bad, right, wrong, beautiful, ugly, funny, sad, tall, short, thin, fat, rich, poor, black, white, possible, impossible, true, lie, worthy and unworthy, and trying to figure out the complexities of people and situations. When letting it all be as it is, so much efforts and energy can be spared. This energy can be transformed and directed towards one’s development and improvement.

5.     Last, but not less important – being non-judgmental improves the relation with other people – when we can listen without casting judgements on for thoughts, actions or the lack of actions, the other person will open and blossom from appreciation for the understanding and compassion. Then the relation becomes a relation of respect and appreciation of the authentic nature of each human being without worrying about whether they’re “good” or “bad”, right” or “wrong”. Aren't all people looking for understanding and a place to be themselves without fear of judgement or guilt; and how great experience it is for the Coach to provide this place and to give comfort, support and understanding.

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.
— Nikos Kazantzakis

Judging is part of human nature, it happens on unconscious level and most people are not aware how often it takes place. Judgment has its roots in prejudices and stereotyping, which has helped people stay in their comfort zone and have certainty about the surrounding world. There are many different merits of being non-judgmental. In general, being non-judgmental can lead to a better personal well-being and improved relationship with the people around us. It is definitely worth working on it!

Author: Iana Avramova