Please do not judge me for doing this, but I want to tell you an absolutely true story about a judge. She works out at my friend’s gym, and if you did not know what she did for a living, you would think she was either a stand-up comedian or the head of a puppy dog raincoat company. What I am trying to say is that she is super funny and super nice. On the bench she handles huge cases and she can be tough as nails, but in real-life, she is very human, a mom and a humanitarian.
Pre-Pandemic, she was working out on the elliptical machine in the gym in her usual baggy T-shirt and colorful, mismatched Target or Walmart Yoga pants when, according to my friend, two youngish women came into the cardio area in “gazillion dollar” workout outfits having an incredibly loud conversation. They got on the elliptical machines to either side of the judge and continued their convo on who knows what.
Finally, the judge turned to one and said, “Please, would you mind lowering your voices a little?” They said something stupid and judgmental, something about her staying home and doing the dishes, and then more personally, about her raggedy outfit, or some such nonsense and stormed out of the cardio area. A clear example of speaking their mind, not their truth, which is done with clarity, sincerity, and respect. I cannot help but think it would have been more effective to say, “Yes, we are a bit loud. As we were looking forward to connecting while working out, would you be open to trading places so we could be side by side?” Oh well.
We fast forward to a major trial, a case easily involving hundreds of millions of dollars. The same two young women, both lawyers, came into the courtroom dressed all “lawyerly,” with several senior partners. Announced by the bailiff, our judge walks onto the bench in her black robe. According to the judge, the two women turned shades of red never before recorded. In fact, they kept their heads down in embarrassment, refusing to make eye contact.
Do You Judge?
We have become a terribly judgmental society. In an interview for Harper’s Bazaar in July 2020, Dr. Jane Caro, the woman who runs the U.K.’s prestigious Mental Health Foundation noted:
“[Judgment is] all connected to our need as human beings to feel OK about ourselves, and if we don’t feel OK or insecure about whether we’re OK, it’s a defence mechanism to put the focus onto others. So, ‘I will judge you first because it serves as a defence against my fear that I will be judged. I don’t want to feel that feeling of shame that I’m not OK.’”
In a time when we should all be more kind and loving, there is a lot of unhealthy judgment going on; we seem to want to shame others before they shame us. I suppose the two young lawyers from the story above, needed to take the focus off themselves and their own insecurities. They were individually self-doubting; together they might have felt they could conquer their fears by mocking others.
We all judge and deep down, I believe we not only recognize it, but feel badly about it. To that end, I would like to offer 3 strategies to judge less and connect more.
- We need to recognize our own judgment. Our judgments and biases are like walls we put up to protect us. We carry those walls around with us, and that is a pretty heavy burden. There are numerous videos on YouTube shaming shoppers for their clothing, shaming people (primarily women) for being heavy or even mocking individuals for falling and tripping. If we recognize, and then get past our own judgments, we might come up with reasons as to why someone might be poorly dressed, or weigh too much or may have taken a serious fall.
- Catch yourself in the act of judgment and change the narrative. It is called compassion. Believe it or not, we can practice compassion and get better at it. I do not for a minute believe you are not a compassionate person, only that sometimes you might get so wrapped up in your own life, you are very compassionate toward some, and judgmental toward those you don’t know. For example, it is very easy for those of us who have means and have learned to “eat healthy,” to mock someone who must eat “old” bread, unhealthy foods and distressed canned goods. Not to depress anyone, but it is estimated that annually, about 5 million Americans eat pet food. My compassionate side understands that some of that consumption was not done as a party joke.
- Judge too much? Try a new perspective. There are incalculable benefits to seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. Expanding horizons may be scary but I believe in the goodness of the human heart. It was the author William James who said: “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” And it is true. Maybe you’d like to think of it as not judging someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Trying a new perspective carries two “warnings”: it requires us to really listen to another’s heartfelt story with our hearts, and to understand that the person whom you were taught to judge could become your best friend.
To remind myself, I keep a note that states: Before you assume, learn the facts. Before you judge, understand why. Before you hurt someone, feel. Before you speak, think.
We connect more by judging less. It is a simple truth that far too many have forgotten. It is a lesson much too valuable to not teach the children in your life as well.