Recently a client asked, “How can I change my judgment nature? How can I be less judgmental?”

Wow, that is an exciting and courageous goal!

  • Anyone with this goal has already seen the harm to others and/or themselves.
  • In setting this goal, this client has already become less defensive and resistant to learning, coaching, and changing.
  • Thus, an example of how committing to a goal is itself a valuable step in achieving that goal.

I use a 4-step structure for supporting anyone with this goal and wanted to share a couple of elements from that process with you.

Foundation-building knowledge about “being judgmental” that will support this goal.

Most judgments are instantaneous, coming from our conditioned experiences (FAST system) and instantaneous judgments show up in how we feel and react.

Yes, I know this contradicts the ideal of us as wise and rational beings who carefully ponder only the facts to reach reasoned, fair judgments. But that’s more of an imagined behavior rather than a real human one anyway. Plus, when there is pondering, it is usually the pondering needed to express the instantaneous judgment in the most palatable, or socially acceptable manner possible.

To learn more, check out Jonathan Haidt and other social psychologists who use the rider/elephant metaphor to explain the significant research around the emotional/intuitive nature of our imagined rational judgments.

Judgments show up as emotions that fuel reactions. While the emotion and the reaction can be positive, the reactions that bother us are almost always negative. After all, this client isn’t worried about her instantaneous burst of elation and excitement.

Examples of Emotions and Reactions:

Anger                        Shouting

Disgust                     Audible exhale

Frustration               Eye rolling

Sadness                     Crying

Efforts to stifle and control emotion-driven judgmental reactions aren’t very effective. When you value relationships and long to show up as your best self, of course, you want to stifle that angry outburst and that obvious look of shock and frustration. But judgments, remember, are instantaneous because they are expressions resulting from your past conditioning. You can’t undo the conditioning that created the reaction, but you can create awareness of the conditioning that’s been triggered.

Potential benefits of pursuing and making progress with this goal.

New insights into your unconscious bias emerge to fuel your growth.

Creating awareness of your conditioning isn’t automatic. Such insights emerge from intention and attention. Bringing to conscious awareness what you can’t see isn’t easy. This is the nature of judgment and unconscious bias. What’s needed is support from someone you trust to help you see what you can’t see. As you likely already know, it’s often easier to see others’ blind spots than it is our own.

As you start to create awareness of your conditioning that triggers your instantaneous judgment, you’ll become a little amazed at what you discover. This is always the fun part of personal and professional development, learning surprising things about yourself that you suddenly become eager and willing to change.

Less judgment of others AND yourself!

Ironically, as you begin to discover the numerous ways you express judgment of others, you start to see how judgmental you are of yourself. Your self-judgment might already be apparent to others but often hasn’t been obvious to you. And then a real benefit can come when you break through and see that self-judgment and begin to laugh at it and see how irrational it is. You might even discover that as you ease up on your self-judgment, it’s almost effortless to release the judgment of others that has felt so essential until now.

These few elements I’ve shared—things to know and benefits of pursuing this goal—are just that, a few elements. But I hope they inspire you to think about who you know that could benefit from becoming less judgmental of others and/or themselves and share with them that coaching is a tool for growing through this extraordinarily draining and relationship-straining habit. Give that person who comes to mind, the gift of a free coaching conversation. This conversation might be just the next step needed for your friend, colleague, or family member to find the freedom they’ve longed for.

Wrap Up!

Most judgments are instantaneous and show up in how we feel and react. When you decide you want to create awareness of the conditioning that triggers your judgments, you might find it easier to talk to someone else about it. Two benefits of pursuing this goal: 1) becoming less judgmental of others and 2) less judgmental of yourself! If that sounds appealing for you or someone you know, set up or share this opportunity for a free coaching conversation!

Photo by Abhishek Upadhyay on Unsplash