Monday, February 9, 2009

Are You Making Judgements.. or Being Judgemental??

Judgemental, prejudiced and biased individuals make far-reaching pronouncements based on limited information. We all know such people. Their false and extreme generalizations give them away. "Anyone who uses curse words is obviously stupid and uneducated!" "Rock-and-roll fans don’t know the first thing about music!" "People who don’t regularly attend religious services are heathens!"

Most people realize that being judgemental is an unattractive trait. If you look around, you’ll find that most judgemental people are disliked and avoided. The answer to Mom’s reproach, "Why don’t you call your mother more often?" if truthful would probably be, "Because you’re judgemental and tend to pick on me, so it’s unpleasant to talk to you." When people stop being judgemental, they often discover a level of personal happiness that had eluded them.

Yet none of us can help forming opinions of other people. So how does judgemental thinking differ from making judgements? Judgemental people state their views and observations in authoritative terms; they decree what is right and wrong, what should and should not be, what is good or bad. Making a simple judgement, however, does not carry these ominous overtones. "Billy has poor table manners" is a judgement. The judgemental person would add something, such as "Therefore, he’s a slob who was raised by cavemen!"

We make judgements constantly. "He’s good-looking." "She dresses well." "He seems to lack a good sense of humor." "She’s overweight."

In forming opinions or making judgements, there is no moral overtone, no further conclusions are drawn, no inferences are made about the person’s character. We just have the observation or the perception.

As soon as we add "therefore" to the observation, we are likely to be judgemental. "He talks very slowly," is an observation, "therefore, he must be stupid" is a judgemental conclusion.

If you look out for your own "therefores" you are less likely to sit in judgement over your fellow human beings, which will be all to the good for you and them.


Adapted from The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World, by Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D. and Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D. Available at online and local bookstores or directly from Impact Publishers, Inc., PO Box 6016, Atascadero, CA 93423-6016. Phone 1-800-246-7228.