Why Judging People Will Only Make Your Life More Difficult (Tips to Break the Habit)

Young woman about to cry after having a fight with her boyfriend

Judging and Stereotyping Is a Habit

Life is hard enough without creating our own difficulties. One way to ease your life is to avoid the habit of being the judge. It is a habit. We like to place people, events, and circumstances into fixed categories: right, wrong, good, and bad. We categorize based on physical characteristics, such as race, on political affiliation, and on religion. We adopt a stereotypical approach to others as a way of eliminating the effort of making individual assessments. It’s faster to stereotype people by some easily determined aspect of their being. But does it contribute to an easier life?

Probably not. Consider that stereotyping people based on any characteristic that eliminates knowing them as individuals may actually bring more difficulty to your life.

Young woman about to cry after having a fight with her boyfriend

The Cost of Judgment

It’s easy to see this for yourself. Be aware of the next time you find yourself accepting a stereotypical assessment of someone. The words accompanying such a judgment usually include something like, “Oh, he’s a (label) and you know how they are.” Or, “What can you expect, she’s a (label).” When you find yourself either reaching such a conclusion or readily agreeing with someone else’s judgment, be aware of how you feel.

Notice the tension in your muscles, especially your facial muscles. You may find you feel slightly superior, but you’ll probably not feel anything close to joy or love. Notice that your face is tense, your mouth is grim and determined, and your teeth may even be clenched. See the problem now? By accepting a stereotypical judgment, ostensibly a shortcut to critical thinking, you’ve actually created an internal stress. Stress is known to be unhealthy, whether it’s externally or internally generated.

Justifying Your Judgment

But that’s not all. There’s more and it’s not good either. As soon as you make or accept a judgment, your mind will start a process of justifying your conclusion. Since we’re wired to avoid cognitive dissonance, once we reach a conclusion about someone we’ll justify that conclusion. We’ll find ourselves looking for corroborating evidence and for confirmation from other people.

And should the person to whom we’ve conveniently applied a label demonstrate a behavior that doesn’t fit, we’ll need to rationalize this as an anomaly or an attempt at subterfuge.

This whole process consumes surprising amounts of emotion and energy, all of it avoidable by suspending the inclination to judge.

Break the Judgment Habit

If you want an easy life, a life without struggle, then judge nothing–no event, no circumstance of life, and no other person–regardless of how foreign the observation may be to you. Observe the facts of a situation, but refrain from drawing conclusions that label the situation as right, wrong, good, or bad. Deciding that something is right or wrong for you–given who you choose to be–is one thing, deciding what’s right for another is something to avoid. If, that is, you want an easier life.