Insights into Psychology

Are You Judgmental?

How judgmental are you? - image of

I think we judge.  We all judge, meaning we’re all judgmental, even if we don’t like to admit it. And that’s okayβ€”or is it?

I generally think of myself as pretty open-minded.  I think people should embrace whatever viewpoints they want to embrace, as long as they’re not channelling those views into harmful actions against others.  If I don’t like it, that’s okay; it’s really none of my business.

But do I judge?  Sure.  Do I judge often?  Quite possibly.  Is that inconsistent with being open-minded?  Not necessarily.  But how would that work?

Inside my head voice

I conceptualize an “inside my head voice,” which chatters away about all kinds of things.  I don’t pay all that much attention to that sort of mindless chatter; it’s a kind of mental white noise.  Judgements and observations coming from that voice often don’t get internalized any further.  They also don’t usually get converted to outside my head voice.  Outside my head voice changes the way I act or speak towards whoever it is that I’m judging; that may be through vocalization, actions. or both.  That, I generally try to avoid.

Because I distinguish between inside my head voice and outside my head voice, I don’t tend to get annoyed with myself over the smaller judgments that spontaneously spring up.  I also don’t jump to labelling myself as judgmental or any of the other negative labels that tend to go along with that, nor do I tend to go so far as labelling the other person.

Keeping a lid on it at work

In my work, I’ve dealt with patients who’ve done all kinds of sketchy things and made some really poor choices, but I was very careful not to let any inside my head judgments spill over into the way I treated them. 

I had one very psychotic patient who would regularly steal to fuel his drug addiction and would end up in jail on multiple occasions. Did I dismiss him as “just a criminal?”  Absolutely not.  I quite liked him, actually; he was a fascinating character.

Judging friends

One person who triggers a lot of inside my head judgements is, strangely enough, my best friend.  He is probably the quirkiest person I’ve ever met, and he’s got a bunch of weird idiosyncratic superstitions. 

He’s also not good with money, and from what I can gather the example he had from his parents wasn’t the greatest.  I, on the other hand, grew up with parents who were extremely financially responsible.  My friend has a luxury car that his dad encouraged him to lease, even though car-related costs consume most of his disposable income.  I judge big-time, and I think he makes some stupid decisions.  But does it affect our friendship?  No, not at all.

Differentiating groups from individuals

One thing that I think is quite important is being able to keep judgments about a group to trickle down to become judgments applied to specific individuals.  I live in a Pacific Rim city with a large population of new immigrants from China.  China (along with many non-Western countries, for that matter) has different rules of the road than the largely rigid adherence to traffic laws that happens in North America.  New immigrants from China don’t always adjust quickly to driving in Canada. 

This isn’t about racism, it’s about wildly different traffic norms.  Does that mean I automatically think any Asian-looking person is a bad driver?  No, because I can recognize the difference between an individual and group generalizations.

Accepting judgments will happen

I suppose where I’m going with all this is that we’re told that it’s bad to be judgmental.  However, to simply dismiss it as something unacceptable takes away the opportunity to reflect and recognize greater nuances. 

We all judge, whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not.  The more we admit and unpack our own judgementality, the more aware we can be of how our own perspective affects our behaviour.  Realizing when I’m judgmental makes it easier not to act on it.

Do you think you’re judgmental?  What tends to bring it out in you?

Embrace Acceptance: A Guided Journal draws on concepts from acceptance and commitment therapy to help you move towards a place of greater acceptance. It’s available from the MH@H Download Centre.

18 thoughts on “Are You Judgmental?”

  1. You’re right, we all judge. Our brains are also wired towards stereotyping to make quick decisions, and it’s up to us as to what we do with our thoughts and judgements after that. I like to think, however, that I’m open-minded. I may not agree with someone’s choice, opinion or even fashion sense, but that’s okay, it’s brilliant in fact because the diversity is what makes life interesting and us humans amazing. Thought-provoking post! xx

  2. I think I am both judgmental and open-minded. I generally think I have a bit of a psychological instinct, or however people call it, just that I like to observe people and I think, and people in my surroundings do too, that I am pretty good at determining a person’s character traits, or the way they might behave, I just find figuring out people fascinating and actually I don’t even think about it when I do it, it just happens, as I guess it does for many people, I trust my instinct a lot, and it helps me in relationships with others, or helping other people, etc. But when you make such conclusions and trust your knowledge of people, however big or small it is, I feel like it’s very close to judging them, and possibly becoming prejudiced without a sound reason other than your gut feeling, and I’ve fallen into that trap very often, feeling so comfortable with my instinct and being sure that I have to be right, because I know this and that about the person, or I saw them doing one thing, so they just have to be like I think they are. Now I’ve realised it I can usually catch myself on it and not let my judgments go too far and be too unfair, and, in any circumstances, I try not to judge people too quickly based on something, and not let my brain criticise things that they do just because it’s not something I would do or approve doing. I definitely think it’s OK to judge, it’s hard not to, it’s just necessary to have some control over it. And I never, ever let my judgments or thoughts about a person determine the way I interact with them, not consciously anyway, even if I really judge them a lot. And I tell myself that in the end, I don’t know what their motives are, for doing what they do, and I don’t know their full story.

    1. I think that’s so important to be able catch ourselves before it goes too far. My parents tend to be quite judgmental, and they often don’t catch themselves because they’re convinced that they’re being objective.

      1. I think it always has a potential to be dangerous to be convinced you’re always objective, it’s really hard to be, and I guess it makes you even more prone to being subjective.

  3. I can relate to so much of your post, especially about the inside-the-head judgment and how we try so hard to not let it be spoken aloud.

    Oh yes, I can be quite self-righteous, and that definitely brings out my judgey side. Like, “How dare you run that stop sign! I’m going to honk at you! So there.” Sometimes, too, in a weird reverse way, I almost always try to take a bag with me to pick up LuLuLu’s poo-poo, because I’m imagining the neighbors seeing me leave it on the grass and judging me (quite rightly). And I have this weird belief that if I can’t be bothered to pick up the poop, then I have no right to honk at stop-sign runners; so I pick it up, and honk away, and everything’s all right in my world. πŸ™‚

    Very thought-provoking blog post!

  4. An excellent topic today, Ashley!
    I honestly have to admit that there are times I am judgemental. I think everyone shares in that assessment. But, I don’t judge a book by its cover, nor by ethnic groups, nor by how someone lives their lives. To each their own.
    However, if someone wrongs me, or wrongs another for no damn reason… My mouth can stir a wicked vulgar judgment on that person instantaneously, no matter who they are.
    It takes an AWFUL lot for me to really freak out and judge another, but to be honest, who am I to judge when my life and my world are far from perfect in any way, shape or form?
    Again, I think everyone is judgemental to a certain extent.

  5. We all judge inside our heads based on past experiences as well as the judgement calls from those around us. The key is to push past it and try to keep an open mind. I think about how I feel when I am stereotyped and that keeps me in line (for the most part).

  6. Funny, I was just thinking about this recently. I know I’m judgmental, and I judge myself about it. I think I’m the one who most brings out the judgmentality in me. Another great post, Ashley, thanks for making me think!

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