I was profoundly hurt recently by a friend who's been in my life for nearly a decade. We were working on a project together that had stalled for different reasons. Although I was doing everything I could to keep the project alive, I wasn't able to get anything finalized. Since the project was important to me, I was in the midst of seeing how it would all shake out when I received an email from my friend saying that she was horribly upset that she'd been cut out of the deal.
I was shocked, to say the least. There was no deal! Where was she getting her information? The truth was, she hadn't gotten it from anyone or anywhere. She had simply assumed that my intentions weren't what I'd stated when we started the project, and rather than try to really communicate with me about what was going on, she made a hasty judgement call — and that was that.
Apparently, our decade-long friendship meant nothing to her, and I was left in the cold.
The demise of our friendship — over a misunderstanding and a subsequent quick judgement — got me thinking about the myriad ways we (myself included!) judge others. Sometime we judge friends or extended family members. But, much of the time, we are placing judgment on people we don't even know! Nobody wants to feel judged, so why are we so quick to judge?
Sure, I've been used to being judged to a crazy degree since my early modeling days. I willingly jumped into an industry where you are absolutely judged on your appearance.
Maybe being judged myself led me to start placing quick judgements on the people around me. I told myself that being judgmental was a dirty little habit that we're all guilty of. Years ago, whenever I began dating someone new, I made unfair judgments about a person I'd barely finished dinner with: If he didn't leave the exact tip I thought he should, then it probably meant he was cheap. If he didn't thank the server and the busboy every single time they came by the table, he was probably rude. I hardly even gave people a chance before I decided I had them"figured out."
If I wanted to stop being judged, first I needed to stop judging. I'm married now, and therefore not in a position to judge potential suitors. But, this year, I decided to put an end to this ugly behavior in all its destructive forms. In fact, I made it one of my resolutions, and although I haven't been perfect and never will be, I'm proud to say I'm making progress and getting off the judgy-train.
As I started thinking about it, I realized that if we were to count how many snap judgments we make in a given day, the results would probably be mind-boggling. Our judgments almost always go to extremes, and instead of making us feel better for a moment, they are actually far more damaging than we think.
Here's what I do to rein in my judgements: When I catch myself being judgmental (at a dinner party, on the playground, in the drugstore), I immediately push those thoughts away and force myself to think of something positive. I don't know what's going on between that couple sitting across from me. I don't know what kind of morning the mom at the swings had, and I certainly don't know why the person at the pharmacy is being pushy.
It might sound kind of silly, but if we are going to make assumptions about people, why not make them positive? Everyone has a story, and there is no way of knowing the full picture. Often, even with friends or coworkers, we only have a partial view. Think of it like an iceberg. Chances are, we are only able to see the tip. So much could be lurking below the surface, and who are we to judge someone or a situation when there are so many unknown factors?
I've been trying to be open-minded. This may sound trite, but it's helping me stick to my pledge to quit my judgment habit. I encourage you to do the same. The next time you're inclined to judge someone, I urge you to look deep within yourself and try to see the situation from another angle. It's only going to make you feel better about yourself in the long run because think about it: Judging someone doesn’t define who they are; it defines who you are.