My friends and I were recently having a conversation about some gossip we heard. Now, ultimately, I try to keep gossiping to a minimum, as it’s one of the Four Agreements to be ‘impeccable with your word,’ and using your words to speak about others isn’t necessarily a great use of energy especially when it comes from a place of judgement, but I digress. As we [humans,] were ALL passing judgement on the situation, and as I played devil’s advocate for most of the conversation (because I’m kind of an a**hole like that), I got thinking about how early and often we make our judgements on situations, despite having very little information.
It was yet, another thing that I didn’t like about my young-self: Always so quick to judge.
I don’t really know where it came from… maybe it’s a learned behavior as a girl or maybe it’s from where I grew up. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but once I noticed my judgmental thought patterns (even as they applied to myself) I started to become slightly tortured by them. I noticed myself judging people on the subway, people I worked with, people I saw in restaurants, and often times it was a negative judgement of sorts. We do the same with information we receive; taking a side before knowing all the facts, reading a headline and jumping to a conclusion, choosing a political stance based on one factor alone.
It’s not just me, I know that. It’s an incredibly human thing to do. It’s part of our wiring. Our brains want to categorize and make sense of this world, so we use our references, experiences, and opinions as the truth in which we compare things to. The problem there is: my truth, isn’t your truth, and your truth, isn’t their truth.
Some of these are snap judgements, which Malcolm Gladwell, makes sense of it in Blink: “Snap judgments are, first of all, enormously quick: they rely on the thinnest slices of experience … they are also unconscious. We thin-slice because we have to, and we come to rely on that ability because there are lots of hidden fists out there, lots of situations where careful attention to the details of a very thin slice, even for no more than a second or two, can tell us an awful lot.”
So our snap judgements can be incredibly helpful, but I realized they can be incredibly limiting as well. These “slices,” that Gladwell mentions, are just that — slices. They’re not the whole picture, and when you tend to look at something from every possible angle, often times your snap judgement and your educated judgement will look completely different.
As a person always looking to improve upon the self, mindfulness plays a huge role for me. In this situation, being mindful and aware of possible knee-jerk reactions and snap judgements can help us break out of those patterns. Left to it’s own devices, our brain will always try to categorize and judge things as good/bad, right/wrong, fair/unfair, etc. Instead of JUDGING things that look different to me, that I want to say are wrong, ugly, or whatever, I started replacing those thoughts with compliments and curiosity. Applauding individuality, and asking myself questions about whatever it is that I’m judging.
When you bring mindfulness to the specific times when this can happen, we can question our judgements. Did I just make up a story about this person? Is there another side to the story I’m not hearing? Is there another angle to look at this from? Is the person on the subway who I’m currently grilling their own person, with their own history and story?
This concept is known as non-judgmental awareness, and can help us just be curious about the world around us rather than judgmental toward it. It can help us have more compassion for the passersby in our lives. It can broaden our sense of what is acceptable, which can ultimately cultivate a deeper sense of peace. If we can live and let live, show compassion and understanding, imagine the effects on the world!