To each their own. Let that be the motto of the age. Tolerance and acceptance are the catchwords of popular culture. I was born this way, baby! To judge another is considered a great sin in today’s world and yet it is an inescapable fact of life that our actions and reactions to others are based on judgments that we make about that person.
Is it bad to judge others? Is it wrong to fix an image of someone in your mind based on the way you perceive them? Both yes and no. If I may split hairs here, there is a difference between judging and passing judgment. Without judging we would be unable to make decisions. Judging happens whether we know it is or not. We instinctively know that we’d rather not be in a work group with this person. We know that we would not get along with these types of personalities. Judging informs us on our personal take on or interactions with others.
Passing judgement on the other hand, deals with someone’s overall quality as a human being. Engaging in this activity, we place ourselves in God’s position.
What is important is where and by what criteria our judgments take place. First impressions are made within seconds of meeting a person. Why does this occur? It certainly isn’t a conscious thought process where we weigh all the data available to us. This initial reaction to someone is based on observation, context, and our own inner assumptions and biases. Since this instinctual process is inescapable let us instead change its method of operation. Moved into the forefront of the mind, let us take our first impressions and reevaluate them based on facts, not assumptions.
When you first meet someone, you don’t truly know anything about them. There are certain things that can be implied about their personality and circumstances, but these implications are speculative at best. Very few possess the mind or observational skills of Sherlock Holmes to be able to project these implications into concrete knowledge. Our first criteria, therefore, is to judge based on actions not impressions. Watching whether someone’s actions match up with their words is one of the best ways to know that person’s character.
The second criteria is to determine the motives of those we interact with. We have all known people who complain for the sake of complaining, who seem rude or disinterested, or who seem changeable and strange. Before judging someone we should weigh actions and words in the context of their situations. Things like stress, a death in the family, or a distracted state of mind can color a person’s responses. We have all said things we regretted, or become emotional over a misunderstanding. Realize that this happens to others and you will being to develop a deeper understanding of those people. You will begin to see patterns of behavior, things that set people off. And after enough observation you should make your judgement.
The final thing to keep in mind when forming judgments is to recognize the differences that others possess. Recognition of the various interests, viewpoints, and personal quirks that others have is important to forming judgments about them. This may seem obvious, but how many times have we read flame wars on the internet, or been laughed at or looked down on for an opinion on a book or movie? Recognition and understanding of why these differences exist is an important step in the process of judgement. You don’t have to agree with, or even respect the differences that other people possess, but they should factor into the cognitive formulation of your opinion.
Judgement of others is not something we should pass off to stereotypes and first impressions. People are much more complex than that and have a wide variety of thoughts, actions, motives, ideals, and likes. Only by taking into account all of these aspects of a person’s life can we truly judge them. And even after the judgment is made, we should be open to reassessing it.
People judge each other. Its a cold, hard fact. It isn’t always fair and it isn’t always right. By making the process of judgment a conscious activity we can reduce stereotyping, see things from a wider perspective, and truly begin to understand other people. Which-in my opinion-is the first step in solving many of the problems that exist not only in our social lives, but in the whole world today.