How to judge without being judgmental

When you judge another, you do not define the, you define yourself

In researching my forthcoming Detective thriller, I’ve spent a lot of time with cops. Their ability to judge a situation on the fly can be a matter of life and death.

Through repeated exposure to high stress situations, patterns emerge, mental muscle memory develops and the best law enforcement professionals are able to make instant decisions that are often right on the money.

But to a person, they will tell you that there is almost always more to the story than first meets the eye.

Among the rock stars who stand on the thin-blue-line are some of the best natural psychologists out there. They deal with the inevitable outcomes of poverty, addiction, abuse and ignorance, calming when they can and neutralizing when they must.

As one of my blue blood friends told me, “Yes, there are evil people out there. But most are decent folks thrust into bad situations.”

What we think we see is rarely how it really is. To judge someone based on what appears on the surface is a dangerous practice.

Yes, there is validity to old chestnuts like, “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Patterns of behavior especially in times of adversity reveal character. But..

Too often, we take what others say at face value, without question and judge accordingly.

Gabrielle Bernstein likens judgement to addiction. “Every one of us struggles with judgment. We judge other people’s politics, tweets, parenting choices—maybe so often that we don’t even notice anymore. It’s just a habit. But as someone in her 12th year of sobriety, I believe the cycle of judgment is more like an addiction.”

In an era where we make decisions based on 240 character sound bytes, it’s easy to get hooked.

A corollary to the famous Wayne Dyer quote, was articulated by author, John Mark Green – “The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets.”

Or as it is written over at Positivity Garden: “Our judgments reveals our soft-spots. Our insecurities. Our weaknesses.”

“Sometimes wrong is just plain wrong,” writes Izey Victoria Odiase. “And sometimes wrong is relative. Understand the circumstances, and varying perspectives before you judge.”

So how can we judge without being judgmental? The answer is curiosity:

Seattle Times Columnist Tony Hacker says, “Being curious helps us better understand the world and other people. We also make better decisions if we are curious to know more.”

“For if we can approach people first and foremost not with judgement but with curiosity,” Dr. Alex Lickerman wrote in The Undefeated Mind, “we’ll have taken an important step on the journey to compassion…”

Curiosity leads to compassion. And compassion is the key to true understanding.

My own adventures in a judgemental world over the past year and a half have renewed my curiosity about the people I come into contact with every day. I’ll save that story for another day, except to say that I’m intensely aware of how easy it is to be seduced by the sensational, even when it’s not the truth.

The genuine interest I try to express in others, along with the smile that goes with it, is almost always reflected back. The practice has also been a meditation about the pitfalls of judgement without curiosity and how mindful awareness can help us make better decisions.

We ultimately must judge. But judgement transforms into wisdom when we seek to understand.

Want to take  a deeper dive? Check out this video from the amazing Sarah Sapora: