As humans, we have both the ability and the right to express our opinions, even if they may be unpopular or biased. For some, these expressions can come off harsh, and while the intention may be well-meaning, it’s best to avoid being judgmental.
Examples of being judgmental can include general intolerance, assuming the worst in people, having a harsh inner critic, feeling suspicious without cause, jumping to conclusions, and expressing an ‘all or nothing’ attitude.
If you want to learn how to be less judgmental, let’s explore how criticism seeps into our lives and how we can use alternative forms of expression.
1. Why Is Everyone So Judgmental?
These days, especially within online spaces, we have become increasingly judgmental of one another. One theory is that it is easier to place judgment and to deliver harsh criticisms from behind your computer screen or your phone device than to say directly to someone’s face.
However, if that were indeed the case, then it would be that we are much kinder to one another in person, which is not exactly right either. What are the root causes that spur one’s desire to be judgmental?
There are a variety of answers, and most of them circle back to the primary issue of wanting to guard our own egos. But in addition, other reasons for why we are all so judgmental can include:
Using judgment as a defense mechanism to protect our pride
Feeling insecure and jealous
The need to hide ignorance on a particular subject matter
Putting down other people in order to feel empowered
Another interesting phenomenon that could account for judgmental behavior is the negative reinforcement that it provides. Clinical psychologist Nick Wignall notes, “I got in the habit of being judgmental because it alleviated the aversive feelings of boredom and disappointment—a process psychologists call negative reinforcement.”
Negative reinforcement is powerful in motivating certain habits, and the act of being judgmental can certainly be habit-forming. Even though you may not be fully aware, there is something about your inclination towards judgment that is serving a purpose or need.
In learning how to avoid being judgmental, it’s essential to consider what it is that triggers your criticism and, instead, address the core issue. From there, you can also determine the ways in which judgmental behavior reinforces feelings of reward.
2. Judgmental Personality Types
A judgmental attitude is not just a one-note type of behavior. There can be a multitude of reasons behind why someone expresses critical thoughts and actions towards others.
Below are some examples of the personality traits found in those who exhibit judgmental behavior. Upon reviewing this list, you may even find that you possess some of these attributes yourself-and that’s ok!
Understanding why and the ways in which you contribute to these negative mindsets are essential to creating change. If you do notice a trait below that resonates with you, try to consider ways in which you can alter it, to become a more empathic person.
You generally assume that people are against you. Thinking that everyone is out to get, you can create a defensive and suspicious attitude. Naturally, you would then be prone to judging others as a way of protecting yourself.
You lack self-confidence. When you suffer from low self-esteem, you are most likely judging your abilities harshly, even subconsciously. The way that you treat and speak to yourself will then translate into how you treat others.
You jump to (adverse) conclusions. As a protective measure, you automatically jump to a devastating ending, otherwise known as catastrophizing. This may be your way of preparing yourself against something terrible, but it leaves little room for hope or a positive attitude.
You have a narrow opinion of others. Perhaps you have a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to the characteristics of others. If you see or hear an unsavory detail about someone, it may taint your entire perception, which then forms itself as a judgment against the person as the whole.
You are uncomfortable with diversity. You may have deep-rooted biases against others that are not like you. As a result, you resort to stereotypical judgments and intolerant behaviors because you don’t understand or like someone’s chosen lifestyle or how they want to present themselves to the world.
3. Coping with a Judgmental Person
We all have at least one person in our lives who is judgmental; that person could even be you! It can be hurtful to be on the receiving end of harsh criticisms, and dealing with judgmental friends can leave you feeling depleted and alienated.
Below are some tips on how you can overcome the attack of judgment. And if you are the one who is placing judgmental, try to consider how your actions are harmful to your relationships.
Try to be empathetic: At the core, judgmental people are often unhappy and insecure. As unfair as their attitude may come across, try to approach the situation with compassion.
Own your life choices. No one has the power to shame you unless you allow it. Instead of allowing their judgment to instill regret, empower yourself by embracing your life’s journey.
Focus your energy on people who support you. It’s easy to be drawn into negativity; that is what judgmental people want! Instead, turn your attention towards the positive influences in your life.
Expressing criticism is common as there are psychological reasons why we judge others. More often than not, our sense of self contributes to the judgment of others. “The reason we judge others in this way is our own ego. Consciously or unconsciously, we feel better about ourselves (once we place judgment).”
Embracing a righteous attitude will ultimately backfire because, at the end of the day, we all have our flaws. The path towards self-love starts with an empathic and compassionate acknowledgment of the human qualities in others.
If you can avoid being judgmental, you will be closer to self-acceptance, as well as the acceptance of others.