You probably don’t think of yourself as a judgmental person.
I certainly don’t.
But have you ever paid attention to how many judgements you make in a day?
Making judgements is a big part of our lives. Every decision we make involves a judgement. We mentally label something as right or wrong so often that we don’t notice these judgements let alone the effect many of them have on us.
Small judgements take us up and down throughout the day. This is good, that is bad, this shouldn’t have happened, that could have been better . . .
Many of our judgements make us unhappy, they close new paths before we have a chance to explore them, and they hinder our relationships with others.
One Minute Judgement Test
Think I’m full of it? Try this.
Think of something good that happened recently. How did it make you feel? How did it affect your mood?
Now think of something bad that happened recently. How did that make you feel? How did it affect your mood?
Now imagine these events as neutral – neither good nor bad – they just happened. How does that change how you would have felt in the moment? How does it change your mood?
Did imagining the good thing as something neutral make a big change to your mood? Maybe it cut out a bit of euphoria if you thought the event was really good, but would you really have been much less happy?
How about imagining the bad thing as a neutral event? Was that more peaceful? Easier to deal with?
The judgements we make day in and day out cause us pain and bring us down wa-a-y more than they improve our mood and outlook. So it makes sense that when we learn to judge less, we remove the burden of some of the emotions we attach to judgements.
The Judgement Challenge
This is a pretty easy exercise, but when I first did it I was amazed at how many judgements I made during a day and how they were affecting my thinking. I’ve tried and abandoned a lot of self-help exercises over the years but this is one I continue to use.
Step 1: Take Notice
Try to notice the judgements you make for the next couple of days. Don’t do anything about them just notice them.
- If you like someone’s sweater – that’s a judgement.
- If you think your coffee’s too cold – that’s a judgement.
- If you think someone else shouldn’t have said or done something – that’s a judgement.
Try not to judge your judgements. Just notice them.
Step 2: Put it in Neutral
When you are getting good at catching and labeling your judgements, try adding another step.
When you notice a judgement, restate it in neutral language, and notice how your feelings change. Your inner monologue might go something like:
- I like that red sweater. That’s a judgement. Let’s try “That’s a red sweater.” I think I prefer the first thought, maybe I should share it.
- My coffee’s too cold. Judgement. How about, “My coffee is cold,” or “My coffee seems to be about 80 degrees.” Meh. That’s all the same to me.
- He shouldn’t have said that. Judgement. “He said that.” Whoa. Maybe he had a reason. Maybe what he said makes sense to him. Maybe there’s another way to look at this.
Do you see where we’re going with this?
Some of our judgements don’t have a lot of emotion tied up in them. The coffee’s cold – fix it or move on. But the ones that do. . .
wow. . .
what they can do to us. And we don’t even notice. We just take them for granted.
Imagine a situation that would make you think something like “He shouldn’t have said that.” Then imagine the same situation with the more neutral thought.
In which scenario are you calmer? In which situation are you more open minded? More able to listen to the other point of view?
Think of the different directions the conversation might take when you think. “He said that.” Instead of “He shouldn’t have said that.”
The neutral statement leaves room for you to wonder why he said what he said, what’s important to him, what his point of view is etc. But when you think “He shouldn’t have said it. You shut down these thoughts, neatly filing what you heard under “Wrong.”
By mentally noticing and labeling your judgements you’ve separated yourself from your judgemental thoughts, giving yourself the space to decide what to do with them.
There’s a school of thought that says we should try to eliminate all judgement and see everything neutrally.
I don’t know if that is possible for most of us. It certainly wouldn’t be easy; and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort — but, if we can learn to recognize the judgements we make that hurt us, and if we can learn to neutralize them so we can look at those things more openly, we take a step forward in our own happiness.
What do you think?
Do every day judgements affect your mood? What do you do about it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Here’s what other people have to say about judgement and happiness:
- AngerMentor: How We Unconsciously Make Judgements and One Technique to Snap Out of It
- Zenhabits: A Simple Method To Avoid Being Judgmental
Photo by: s_falkow