When I was a kid, I met a girl at church who immediately rubbed me the wrong way. Because of this, I went out of my way to be nice to her and get to know her better. In the end, we became close friends. I don't know what it is that sets me off right away with some people, but I suspect it has something to do with them working to get comfortable in their own skin.
Last week, my Guy and a close friend were talking about how I was one of the most accepting people they know. He once said that the problem he'd had in other relationships was that there was always something about him they didn't accept, but I "accept the shit" out of him. I value that everyone has their own personal experiences that brought them to where they are now, which helps me to be pretty accepting.
The thing is though, I still beat myself up for judging people.
That person who spends an hour on hair and makeup everyday is not someone I can relate too. That person who posts constant streams of extremely positive posts, must be overcompensating for something. That person who has all their shit together is way out of my league.
But then I look closer and see... That person with the hair and makeup has a ginormous heart! Those positive posts can turn my day around at exactly the right time. That person may look to me like they have their shit together, but they don't really believe it and could really use a friend who does.
To judge is human; to accept, divine.
Judgement is a tool we use to make sense of the world around us. It's when we get stuck on our judgements and can't see past them that problems arise. Only when we accept people without trying to change them, can we truly see what's beyond the surface. This can be a very challenging thing to do. Though I try, I know that I'm not always successful at it.
A dear friend of mine from college was not always such a dear friend. For whatever reason, we didn't connect at first. I believe she thought I was judging her, and honestly she was right. There was something in her free exuberant nature that felt to me as "too much." Perhaps it was because there was part of myself I was trying to hold back. It wasn't until I fully accepted her that I truly saw her for the amazing and wonderful person that she is!
Part of acceptance is connecting with empathy. Making an attempt to understand where the other person is coming from can go a long way. This involves thinking about how that person might be feeling, and what they might be needing. When we see through the lens of common feelings and needs, we can observe more clearly and objectively.
"If you can see, look. If you can look, observe"*
A judgment is a thought about a situation. It goes beyond the who, what and when and gets into the how and why? It also tends to classify things into either good or bad. Our years of life predispose us to think of things in a certain way and come to conclusions based on past experience.
An observation, on the other hand, is a clear view of just the facts. Do you know how hard that is to do? I mean, really it is quite simple, but we rarely do it in isolation. Our observations are so often mixed up with our thoughts and feelings on the matter that the picture becomes muddy.
We often mistake thoughts for observations. For example, you might say "you never want to do anything I want to do," instead of "the last three times I asked to go dancing, you said no."
It is also possible to mistake observations for judgements. If you say, "the last three times I asked to go dancing, you said no," your partner might use past experience and hear, "you never want to do anything I want to do."
Because I am very outspoken and honest, I've had my observations interpreted as judgements. I've been accused of lacking a filter because I so often say what is on my mind. What people don't realize though is that I do have a filter, it's just very different from the majority of people in this country. Fortunately, my European boyfriend is more blunt and honest than I am. What I try not to share are hurtful thoughts that the other person can't do anything about. These thoughts are rare, but when they come, I figure the issue is usually with me, not them. Once I accept that, I can usually move past it. I'm fortunate to have a tight-knit group of honest friends. It feels good to know that if I do something to offend them, they will let me know in an empathetic way.
I've noticed that when people feel judged or not accepted, they automatically shut down and tend not to hear anything you have to say even when relevant. I find it best to work through my own judgements of a situation as best I can before bringing it up to the other person. I can't always do that completely, but if I can approach the issue from a place of seeking understanding, I find things tend to go much smoother.
The next time you feel yourself judging and start to beat yourself up about it, take a step back. Accept your feelings and try to accept the other person right where they are at. Perhaps you can see past your judgement to observe with empathy. That is when you can communicate in an effective manner.
Your turn, tell me about a time when judgement either helped you or got in your way?
*from the Book of Exhortations as the epigram to Blindness.
Photos courtesy of Guy Holtzman Photography