We’ve all heard the word “judgmental,” but do you really know what it means? Being judgmental isn’t the same thing as being prejudiced, and if you’re wondering if you are actually being judgmental of people, you’ve come to the right place.
The good news is that even if you are judging people without being aware of it, there is still time to do something about it. But first, you have to know exactly what it is.
What Is Being Judgmental?
Most of us try to be the best person we can be, which includes treating other people the right way. Sometimes, though, the way we were raised or the people we’ve been hanging out with affect our attitude towards others and we can catch ourselves with attitudes we don’t actually like.
When you judge others, it means that you’re establishing an opinion of them without really knowing them.
Being judgmental means that you form a negative opinion of someone based on that person’s behavior or actions or some other trait.
For instance, if you come across a person who’s shy but you don’t really know them, you might assume that they are snobbish or stuck-up, which may not even be true. In other words, you’re forming an opinion of someone without knowing all of the facts.
If you’re curious whether you are judgmental yourself, ask yourself if you notice any of these things about yourself:
- You look at other people and see a competitor instead of a potential friend
- You automatically make negative assumptions about someone
- You tend to be very critical
- You don’t have a lot of empathy for people
- You aren’t a very happy person
- You tend to devalue others so that you can feel better about yourself
Being judgmental isn’t actually fun, and it can make you feel terrible about yourself. Unfortunately, the longer you are judgmental of others, the more it feels like a natural behavior, so you get used to it and may not even try to change.
It’s like an illness that keeps getting worse, but it’s become so commonplace in your life that you feel stuck and may not want to do anything about it.
Are You Being Judgmental or Prejudiced?
There is a difference between being judgmental and being prejudiced. When you’re judgmental, your attitude is usually critical and is based on not having the whole story.
When you’re prejudiced, it just means that you automatically dislike someone and have a negative opinion of them based on some preconceived belief or stereotype.
With prejudice, your attitude isn’t necessarily critical but is in fact negative. When you meet someone you have a prejudice against, you’ll automatically dislike them because of their skin color, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
When you’re judgmental, you’re simply critical because you don’t know everything there is to know about this person and you assume a lot.
The good news is that both of these negative behaviors can be changed if you work at it. It’s sometimes a little harder changing a prejudice because it is often ingrained into you because it is a learned behavior.
People aren’t born prejudiced, in other words, but if you were taught that certain people are inferior from a young age, it is difficult to get rid of that attitude.
And while the feeling of being judgmental may also be difficult to get rid of, it tends to be a little easier to eliminate than prejudice because it isn’t as ingrained into your personality as prejudice is. Still, it can be hard to remove this attitude from your life, even though it isn’t impossible.
How to Be Less Judgmental?
If you’re interested in being less judgmental, there are ways to do this and here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
1. Start Questioning Your Attitude
If you’re judgmental towards others, start by asking yourself why. In other words, where did this attitude come from and what can you do to change it?
If you truly evaluate your attitude and answer these and other questions, it’ll give you a starting point so that you can start to change that attitude and improve your thoughts about other people.
2. Make a Conscientious Effort to Be More Positive
To change your attitude, you have to first make an effort to change. If you recognize when you’re being negative towards someone, that’s the first step. Get into the habit of pushing negative thoughts out of your head as soon as they get there.
If you keep doing this, you won’t have to work at it so hard because you’ll do it automatically.
3. Try Harder to Develop Empathy
Empathy sometimes has to be practiced, especially if you’re not used to doing it on your own. Consider that this person you’re judging has their own challenges in life, just like the rest of us, and therefore they don’t deserve to be judged.
If you look at them as a human being with both good and bad traits, you’ll start to realize that you shouldn’t be judging them.
4. Make Sure to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Everyone grows when they get out of their comfort zone. Start hanging out with people who are different from you and get to know them a little.
The more people you meet and start to associate with, the more diverse your world will become; therefore, the less likely you are to be judgmental towards anyone.
5. Own up to Your Biases
If you recognize and own up to your biases, it’s easy to recognize them as being wrong.
If you ignore or deny them, it’s a lot easier to accept and continue the behavior, which is something that you don’t want. Once you admit your attitude and behavior, you can do something about it.
Being judgmental is automatically assuming that a person is one thing or another before you have all of the facts about them.
You assume that they have a certain trait, such as snobbiness, simply because of the way they are acting at that particular moment. It is a critical behavior that you can change if you try hard enough to do so.