Judgmental, prejudiced and biased individuals make far-reaching pronouncements based on limited information. We all know such people. Their false and extreme generalizations give them away. “Anyone who uses curse words is obviously stupid and uneducated!” “Rock-and-roll fans don’t know the first thing about music!” “People who don’t regularly attend religious services are heathens!”
Most people realize that being judgmental is an unattractive trait. If you look around, you’ll find that most judgmental people are disliked and avoided. The answer to Mom’s reproach, “Why don’t you call your mother more often?” if truthful would probably be, “Because you’re judgmental and tend to pick on me, so it’s unpleasant to talk to you.” When people stop being judgmental, they often discover a level of personal happiness that had eluded them.
Yet none of us can help forming opinions of other people. So how does judgmental thinking differ from making judgments? Judgmental people state their views and observations in authoritative terms; they decree what is right and wrong, what should and should not be, what is good or bad. Making a simple judgment, however, does not carry these ominous overtones. “Billy has poor table manners” is a judgment. The judgmental person would add something, such as “Therefore, he’s a slob who was raised by cavemen!”
We make judgments constantly. “He’s good-looking.” “She dresses well.” “He seems to lack a good sense of humor.” “She’s overweight.”
In forming opinions or making judgments, there is no moral overtone, no further conclusions are drawn, no inferences are made about the person’s character. We just have the observation or the perception.
As soon as we add “therefore” to the observation, we are likely to be judgmental. “He talks very slowly,” is an observation, “therefore, he must be stupid” is a judgmental conclusion.
If you look out for your own “therefores” you are less likely to sit in judgment over your fellow human beings, which will be all to the good for you and them.
Adapted from THE 60-SECOND SHRINK: 101 STRATEGIES FOR STAYING SANE IN A CRAZY WORLD, by Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D. and Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D. Published by Impact Publishers, PO Box 6016, Atascadero, CA 93423-6016, www.impactpublishers.com or phone 1-800-246-7228.
ARNOLD A. LAZARUS, PH.D., is an award winning, internationally acclaimed professor of psychology, therapist, author, lecturer and clinical innovator. His many honors include the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Psychologist Award (Div. of Psychotherapy), and Distinguished Professional Contributions Award (Div. of Clinical Psychology).CLIFFORD N. LAZARUS, PH.D., is a licensed clinical and health psychologist with a practice in psychotherapy and neuropsychological testing. He is Director of Comprehensive Psychological Services in Princeton, NJ.