HOW OUR JUDGING IS “PREDICTABLY” IRRATIONAL
……….And 6 Practices That Will Help
There have been numerous books and articles that expose our irrational thinking. It tends to make us uncomfortable, but often the truth does. One of the more popular titles is Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. Science backs up what we’ve always suspected was true. It exposes our assumptions that we always think and act in fundamentally rational ways.
What does this have to do with judging? Plenty. When we judge others, we often allow the “real judge” to go undetected. It’s easy to disguise our own opinions and impressions as though there were some judge in the wings holding court. I’m not referring to certain moral laws that are statements on certain human rights and social well-being. I’m referring to our evaluations of something as being good or bad – right or wrong.
We can use these judgments — sometimes unknowingly, for our own personal opinions and preferences, which are legitimate when left in those categories.
We can say:
“That dress is ugly,” instead of saying, “I don’t like the way that dress looks.”
“That speaker is wrong,” instead of saying, “I don’t agree with that speaker.”
“She’s a great actress,” instead of saying, “I really enjoy her acting.”
What is the distinction? The first statements keep the real judge anonymous. It’s playing it safe. It’s irrational. When exposed, we discover we are the judge.
It’s so easy to judge a person’s capabilities based solely on the way they look. I’ve done this at times to my detriment. My irrationality has at times hampered my effectiveness. We even compare ourselves to others which leads to judging ourselves — irrationally. We say, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but we do it anyway – irrationally.
So how do you overcome this human tendency? Try these thought practices:
- Be Aware. When I acknowledge my tendency to make snap judgments, I begin to see when it’s about to happen, or that it just happened. By being aware, I am now in a position to control my behavior. Self-awareness leads to self-management and self-regulation.
- Take Ownership. It’s my inner judge that has its own preferences and opinions. There are numerous reasons why I might be doing this. It could be anything from insecurity to a need to win, or both. It might be based on faulty assumptions about the person or issue. Be very careful with biased thinking or fallacies in reasoning. I am not the center of the Universe. When you start to judge, ask, “what is the opinion or preference I’m basing this on”?
- Avoid Self-fulfilling Prophecies. Self-fulfilling prophecies cause us to take actions that “prove” the prediction is true. This has been the path to failing friendships and deeper relationships. “My relationships never last”, leads to the person pulling away emotionally, which in turn proves the assumption that her/his relationships don’t last. Or it can lead to injustice collecting, where we selectively pile up the proof for our judgment.
- Simplify Your Communication. Speak with more graciousness about differences of opinion. It’s easy to draw verbal lines in the sand the moment a discussion begins. This leads to unneeded conflict. In more extreme cases it leads to violence. We all have had the experience of someone’s differing opinion turning into an emotional Hulk – fighting in defense of an overgeneralized judgment. Opinions are one thing. But when they mutate into judgments, then hostility often becomes the mode of communication.
- Don’t See Danger Where There Is Only Difference. Know the distinction between the two. There is often a fine line. Sometimes it’s just a matter of what I call, decreasing my ignorance. Opinions and differences always exist. If we fail to see the other person or issue, then danger becomes the dominant motivator.
- Let Go Of At Least One Judgment Today. Convert it to opinion or preference. You will discover a peaceful feeling deep within.
One of the healthiest habits we can develop is the practice of pinpointing destructive patterns in our thinking. As we own and expose our mental and emotional fallacies, our potential for deep friendships and well-being will increase.
It’s working for me! :)
(Mick Ukleja is the co-author of the book Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life)