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Though most of us like to think of ourselves as tolerant and open-minded, the majority of us make snap judgments about others. Being judgmental is often second nature to us. We might raise an eyebrow when we notice someone we perceive to be over- or underweight. We might write off an acquaintance after disagreeing with a political opinion they expressed on Facebook.
Striving to become genuinely compassionate is a noble challenge. Abandoning our superiority complexes and taking the time to get to know others can leave us feeling vulnerable. Shedding these elitist attitudes, however, is well worth the effort.
Are you looking to become a more open-minded individual? Rein in your judgment habit using the following techniques.
Counter Your Prejudiced Thoughts
Actively practice observing your thoughts for a couple of days. When you find yourself passing judgment on someone, observe the negative thoughts that come into your mind. Maybe you’re judging someone based on the clothing they’re wearing. Instead of snarkily writing them off as trashy or fashion-challenged, consider a possible alternative explanation for the situation. Maybe this person is wearing old clothes to save money for their child’s education. Perhaps they’ve just returned from working in their garden and haven’t had a chance to change yet. Acknowledge the fact that your snap judgments could easily be incorrect.
If you struggle to correct your judgmental tendencies in the moment, take the time to reflect on your day before you fall asleep at night. Consider situations where you could have been more generous in your assessments of others. Try to respond more kindly in the future.
Stop Playing the Comparison Game
Society has taught us how to compare ourselves to others, often with devastating consequences. Anyone we see could be more or less intelligent, beautiful, funny, talented, or successful than we are. This tendency to compare ourselves to others only serves to undermine our self-worth and fuel our insecurities. To compensate for our unstable identities, we’ll often resort to defensive criticisms of others.
Though comparisons are difficult to avoid, a number of steps can be taken to reduce their influence on our lives. Taking a step back from social media, for instance, is a great way to reduce the negative feelings that arise when viewing the filtered and curated content shared online. Secondly, realize that what works for one person might not work for another. Is someone really better off being a miserable banker than a happy chef? Following our own unique paths and living as free from judgment as possible leads to more happiness than critical comparisons ever will.
We tend to be most judgmental of those we barely know. By not getting to know someone, we can more easily convince ourselves that our prejudices are true.
To avoid this, take the time to talk to others. Whether you’re judging a stranger on the train or a quirky new coworker, find the time to sit down and ask them a couple of questions about themselves. Rather than judging, do your best to concentrate on the person, listening with an open mind and a compassionate heart. When you approach these conversations from a place of tolerance, your perspective is likely to change dramatically. Perhaps that grumpy-looking commuter has just been lost in thought, contemplating his father’s cancer diagnosis. Maybe your quirky coworker is trying to find her place in the world after overcoming agoraphobia.
When you’re feeling unsympathetic, look at social art projects like PostSecret and Humans of New York. Consider the secret sorrows and joys that we all carry within us. By opening our hearts to the struggles that we all experience, we can become more thoughtful and compassionate people.
Stop Black and White Thought Patterns
Many of us fall prey to black-and-white thinking. How often do we pause during an argument to consider the fact that our perceptions may not be fully correct? Simply put, the majority of us believe that we’re right the majority of the time.
Reality is far more nuanced than we think. Two conflicting ideas or behaviors might be equally “good” or “bad.” Instead of judging everything as right or wrong, put yourself in others’ shoes. Though you might have behaved differently in a given situation, perhaps this person’s life experiences have trained them to respond in another way. Though it can be a tough pill to swallow, you must accept the fact that what is right for you might not be right for others. By accepting these gray zones and abandoning your need to be right, you’ll soon find yourself being less critical of others’ life choices.
Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone
It’s easy to be judgmental when situations provide us with a false sense of security. Take a baby step outside of your comfort zone by changing the route you take to work or joining a club that you normally would have avoided. Engage in more meaningful interactions with the people you meet.
Judgment is often fostered by ignorance. One of the best ways to combat this ignorance is by embracing the groups you judge the most. If you find yourself passing judgment on foreigners, for instance, find a way to reach out to individuals in the local immigrant community. Talk to the people you’d otherwise judge. Simply interacting with others may be enough to change your perspectives on many issues. Though you may feel awkward and out-of-place, you’ll probably learn that these individuals are more similar to you than you ever would have realized.
Broaden your horizons by traveling the world, too. Seek out affordable travel options that will allow you to mingle with locals, rather than fencing you off with a swarm of like-minded tourists. Allow yourself to make mistakes with the language and local customs. Traveling is guaranteed to humble you and change your world view.
Eliminating judgmental “rights” and “wrongs” from our lives is freeing to the soul. By becoming more compassionate towards others, you will in turn become more loving towards yourself. This self-love will leave you feeling joyful and fulfilled, rather than bitter and drained.
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