How do I stop judging people?
September 27, 2008 7:24 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop judging people and relate to them as equals?

I noticed the people I really admire are those who are respected by a diverse group of people.

I suppose they have charisma. They're usually confident, polite, good listeners. They make the people they talk to feel important. They give compliments that feel sincere. However, they also have an ability to relate to people I wouldn't imagine being in their social circles.

They aren't particularly wealthy, smart, beautiful or powerful. They seem to be comfortable with everyone. It's like they talk to a complete stranger and they've known them for years. Perhaps they would be great politicians but lack the interest for that kind of work.

Anyway, I would like to be this kind of person. I think it would make for a more interesting and fulfilling life, to be able to connect better with more people.

I've been able to do this when traveling. I think it's because I was an outsider and I didn't know the rules of the society and the usual cues were not there. I talked to everyone and everyone talked to me. I was also interested in people because it was another culture.

However, back at home, in the US, I have trouble continuing this.

I know I have this issue where I judge people and that subtly works into how I relate to people. For example, I have a graduate degree, and some part of my brain ranks me as being better than someone with less education. I have friends with just a high school education but even they admit that in first impressions, I gave off a vibe that I was better than them. (see what I did there? "just" a high school education. I gotta stop!) Another example is money. I claim that money doesn't matter, but I feel like I'm more interested in the person driving a Mercedes than someone who pulls up in a Honda. At the same time, I loathe the person in the Mercedes for conspicuous consumption while admiring the Honda driver for practicality. But why can't I seem to ignore the car they drive?

I know prejudice and stereotyping helps us survive, but I'm not sure these are the kinds of prejudices that are helpful.

So I need to work on these first impressions. I find people interesting, but these judgments are causing me to give off subtle cues that make people feel less trusting or less likely to reciprocate. In other words, when I talk to someone, I'm coming to them as someone above them or someone below them.

It's hard to say what I am specifically doing to convey this. I know I'm the kind of person that has to believe in something to portray it convincingly. So what can a relatively ambitious person read, think about or do on a daily basis to eliminate or better control these judging thoughts?

How do I combat these, materialistic (for the lack of a better word), prejudices that impair my current and potential relationships?

How do I stop thinking I'm better or worse than other people so that I can get along with different people?

(note: I'm not worried about people judging me. Well I am, sorta, but there are metafilter posts on that. I'm concerned with my judgment of others)
posted by abdulf to Human Relations (30 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
How do I stop thinking I'm better or worse than other people so that I can get along with different people?


Seriously, the "more than"/"less than" dynamic is a very common neurosis among people who are focused on achievement, and every good therapist out there who works with a middle-class population is very experienced in helping people work through this issue.

Both traditional psychodynamic "talk therapy" and Cognitive Behavior Therapy are useful to folks who are working on this issue. Figure out whichever one works for you, and go for it.

I don't think that this is something you can fix on your own, because it seems like your code is buggy from a very early point--the way you describe the issue and talk about the "other people" who are so easily charismatic and what-not seems to reflect a root-level problem with understanding self and others.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:58 AM on September 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie is a great start. You can get a free pdf of it with a little google searching. It sounds like you have some good observational ability, but it's coupled with some bad snobbery. What you need to do is turn your observations into interest, not judgement. Instead of seeing that Mercedes and making a statement about it, why not ask a question? People love to talk about themselves. This becomes especially obvious when you suppress your own urge to talk about yourself and start listening.

What you need to recognize is that although education and intelligence can be measured to a certain degree, this does not establish a caste system of human worth. Every single human being has value, and every person you meet has something important to give you. Recognize this, and keep it in your mind whenever you speak to anyone.

On preview: I don't necessarily agree with therapy. It seems like recognizing you have an issue and making a plan to take steps towards fixing it means you are enough of a self-starter to tackle this. Go to the library, check out some books in the self-help section about making friends and how to talk to people. Even books about how to pick up girls will help you learn about how to make someone else comfortable around you.

Here's an exercise: Talk to your waiter. Find out something about him/her. Notice something and compliment it. It's like a game. It doesn't matter if you screw it up, you can go to another restaurant tomorrow and try it again. The same thing that works there will work anywhere. You will learn and change through practice and experience.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 8:13 AM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

See, I disagree with buriednexttoyou. Though I think that bnty offers really good advice about how to change the behaviors--all of those resources are good for finding strategies about how to interact with people more easily--none of those resources are going to change the fundamental attitudes that are messing you up.

Of course, there's no reason you can't work on both at the same time. It's a lot easier to change your own behaviors than it is to change your fundamental attitudes toward self and others, so you might get quicker results from buriednexttoyou's approach.

But ultimately, you're going to need to go back and fix the errors in the operating system, not just tweak the scripts.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:23 AM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Humble yourself.
posted by nickerbocker at 8:24 AM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Please don't talk to your waiter until you're better about this. They are essentially forced to stand there and listen to you and smile and be cheerful.

Do get therapy.
posted by sondrialiac at 8:45 AM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Please don't talk to your waiter until you're better about this. They are essentially forced to stand there and listen to you and smile and be cheerful.

Because then you'll like them more and leave a bigger tip and come back to the restaurant. Maybe there's something to learn from waiters, then? Everyone has something to teach you, even the lowly waiter.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 8:57 AM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have a real argument with yourself. If part of you believes that having more education/money/status makes you a better person and part does not, write down the absolute best arguments for each side, going back and forth and being as fair as possible. Maybe you'll convince yourself which side is right.
posted by callmejay at 9:07 AM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whatever you think you're experienced with is such an imperceptibly tiny shred of the full spectrum of human experience that it can safely be considered negligible. It's extremely unlikely that you're event the best at what you do. What does it matter?

I've been able to do this when traveling. I think it's because I was an outsider and I didn't know the rules of the society and the usual cues were not there. I talked to everyone and everyone talked to me. I was also interested in people because it was another culture.

That person who cleans the toilets in your office is likely from a culture much more alien to you then that of other wealthy educated people in foreign countries. You can learn something from one another if you're open to it.
posted by phrontist at 9:07 AM on September 27, 2008

Constantly remind yourself when you notice these details that the only thing they mean is that you don't know very much about the person, otherwise you'd be noticing other things instead. In other words, think of judgment as a reflection of your own ignorance, first and foremost -- an ignorance that can be corrected by finding out a little more of that person's story.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:17 AM on September 27, 2008 [20 favorites]

One of the biggest mistakes anybody can make is going around thinking people are stupid. A lot of liberals do this, (being a liberal myself), and I cringe at the behavior. You'll never win hearts and minds by thinking people are stupid. You may as well be poking them with a stick. You'll rarely be the smartest person in the room, no matter what you level of education is.

Anyway, it seems you are trapped into a shallow, materialistic way of viewing the world. Don't feel bad about it. Many people have this flaw. It's admirable that you are aware of it and want to change.

Judge people on character. Do you like hanging out with your friend with the high-school education? Is he a nice guy? Do you get along and have fun? If so, that's great and this is where your judgments should end. We all have different life circumstances and we all bring different attributes to the table. Your friend with the high-school education may have money than you. He may have more friends. He may have more happiness. He may have better sex and a better personality. Your graduate degree doesn't mean diddly on how much enjoyment you get out of life. An degree and money cannot make us mindful, they cannot create a moral code, your generosity, or any other positive quality. Your love for your friends and family, your character, and how you treat others is what matters.

We should appreciate having good friends. Thinking about their education level is pointless. A materialistic and snobby society (or parents or whatever) has programmed you to put people up on pedestals, and to look down on the less educated and less wealthy. Maybe you have some self-worth issues.

It's foolish to put people in categories and size people up upon meeting them. You're going to be surprised many times in life. The person that drives the junker and dresses like a homeless person could very well be the county judge. My high school educated in-laws are twenty times more intelligent than I. They always will be, no matter how many degrees I have hanging on my wall. I know plenty of millionaires (literally) that drive Toyota Camrys. Judging people on their possessions is juvenile. Everyone comes with their own set of values and priorities. How they spend their money shouldn't be a concern.

Life is short. We have no choice but to accept people for who they are and appreciate their strengths and positive attributes. The more important question is how do they make us feel. If I have a friend that understands me and who is a nice, caring person, I won't care where they went to school. When you meet a person try to stop your brain from sizing them up. If you stop the judgments and view all people as capable, good human-beings, who are complex and flawed (as we all are), you'll be able to become the charming, confident person you want to be. If you continue to mentally tick off a person's alma mater, their wealth, possessions, or lack-of, you'll be a dullard forever.
posted by Fairchild at 9:20 AM on September 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

That person who cleans the toilets in your office is likely from a culture much more alien to you then that of other wealthy educated people in foreign countries. You can learn something from one another if you're open to it.

When did I say I was "closed" to learning something from another person? I know people around me are different. I talk to them, but the way I see them is affecting the way I deal with them.

Telling me to "be open" is so obvious and vague at the same time. It's not the goal I'm confused about, it's the journey to get there.

I know I have an issue with valuing people. "Stop judging people!" - ok? How. It's like it's hardwired into me.

It's unfortunate I threw in loaded vocabularly like "travel, culture, mercedes, etc". I'm talking about getting rid of that snap judgment that tells you to take a person who shows up in your office in a suit a little more seriously than the guy in t-shirt and jeans.
posted by abdulf at 9:35 AM on September 27, 2008

I think it's difficult to get rid of the snap judgment. I think most of us are guilty of judging people on appearances. It's a common tendency and nothing to be ashamed of.

Most of us may make a snap judgment on the jeans and t-shirt guy. That's OK. It's how you relate and talk with the person after you make the judgment. If you interact with the jeans and t-shirt guy with an air of superiority, or if you have blind admiration for the suit and tie guy, this is where your problem lies and therapy could very well help.

It's all about understanding. Understanding that the jeans and t-shirt, or the suit, doesn't make the man. You know this intellectually, correct? Well, start putting this understanding into practice.
posted by Fairchild at 9:55 AM on September 27, 2008

You sound like activity-based learning might be most helpful for you on your journey toward changing your perceptions. Getting involved in community service puts you in direct contact with people whose lives and needs cover the spectrum of human experience, and may be the kind of reality check you're looking for.

Perhaps interacting regularly with people in difficult situations may soften your tendency toward snap judgments and put things in perspective for you. Tons of places are in need of help, from food and women's shelters, Red Cross, prison literacy programs...the list goes on. Check out or your local religious organization of choice. You have an admirable goal, good luck on your path.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 10:28 AM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I second cognitive behavioral therapy. Often when someone judges someone else as beneath them it's because, on some level, that judgment is central to their own self-esteem. For example, your graduate degree seems to occupy a much larger place than it should in how you identify yourself as a person. Since it's important to you, you look for ways to reaffirm to yourself that it's important -- if you did not, you would have to admit that for however long you put so much emphasis on the degree, it actually didn't mean much at all. When you meet people that do not have a graduate degree, you feel superior to them because it's one of the times you can reaffirm your own worth.

CBT in part makes people confront when they are wrong, and when they believe something only because it makes them feel good about themselves, so it would be helpful for this. I should point out that especially well-educated people often have a lot of their self-esteem tied up in their intelligence -- it's only natural. That's also why they can be especially vulnerable to being unable to admit that they're wrong about something, or that their intelligence is not all-important. I used to have some issues with that myself and I was completely oblivious to it.

Cognitive dissonance has a lot to do with why people choose to assume others they meet are beneath them, so I hope you take the suggestion to heart. Generally people who get CBT turn out more secure, especially intellectually, at least from what I have seen in friends and acquaintances. When someone isn't afraid of being wrong, a lot of immature qualities vanish. This makes them less uptight, less defensive, less judgmental, and more prone to the good qualities you listed. It's much easier for them to have a friendly conversation with someone because they're not always trying to prove something or figure out if the other person thinks they're stupid. It's also easier for them to be sincerely happy for other people, and sincerely curious about them, because if that other person has good qualities they no longer see them as threatening.
posted by Nattie at 10:40 AM on September 27, 2008 [6 favorites]

I second Fairchild. Those snap judgements are completely normal. You are not Chauncey Gardiner, you have a history complete with preconceptions and prejudices. They will most likely always be there, but the point is to diminish their effects on your actions and behaviors. Perhaps therapy would help in eroding those knee-jerk reactions. Speaking for myself, I've always found books and experience to be the most helpful, but if you are open to therapy or you've had success with it before, by all means do what works best for you.

I imagine even the people you look up to have had to struggle with the same problems. Ask them about it.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2008

"Stop judging people!" - ok? How. It's like it's hardwired into me.

Constant awareness of how you would like to see the world, and reminding yourself of it as often as possible. Something that has helped me - a little, at any rate - to begin to change a set of traits that I don't really like about myself has been a small ritual I started of reading over, every night, a few short pieces which encapsulate the mindset I would like to most nearly emulate. The prayer of St Francis is one (although I'm not religious and it's not really relevant to your situation - just an example), there are a couple of others as well - short pieces that are easy to remember and put a lot of meaning into a few lines. I spend a few minutes thinking about them and what they mean in my everyday life, and during the day as I'm going about my business I try to keep them in the back of my mind until the feelings I associate with them become something of a habit. Not a perfect solution, but a start.
posted by frobozz at 11:14 AM on September 27, 2008

"It's like it's hardwired into me."

It's hardwired into all of us.

The technical term for what [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] is talking about is the fundamental attribution error.
posted by 517 at 11:41 AM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm not convinced anyone can completely stop making reflexive or snap judgments--human beings are hard-wired to make quick judgments, for survival mainly (friend or enemy, etc.). For me, I've tried to learn to ignore, or at least minimize the impact of, my initial judgments, until I can gain a more full sense of an individual person.

For instance, I may have a certain reflexive response to someone in a fancy car, or who is really good (or sloppy) looking, etc., but I try not to pay attention to it so much until I can engage that person in conversation by asking them about themselves and such. Once in conversation, I start to get a better picture of a person (interesting or self-absorbed or whatever) and it's always fun to see how that gibes with my first, reflexive judgment. Far more often than not, my first impression was not very accurate, and I also get to see how delightfully different individual people are--I think that's a key element of the personality type you describe in your question, by the way: people who are at ease and engaged with all sorts of other people do genuinely enjoy all the kinds of individuals there are to be found.

I take that initial judgment in stride and don't attach any weight to it unless it is backed up by evidence (the hot blond in the nice car might just be shallow, after all). Just because you have a reaction doesn't mean you have to attach any importance to it--that part is a choice. Also, I know that what I value in people has little to do with appearance, so the criteria by which I do eventually judge someone can't be known by appearance, or apparent pedigree, so those signifiers have less and less weight with me the older I get.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:05 PM on September 27, 2008

If you can't "just stop" then perhaps you do need therapy. Phrontist is totally right. Whatever you might think makes you superior could be considered laughable to so many other people with greater accomplishments. That you recognize that certain people with these higher accomplishments don't care about such trivial crap and get along well with others should prove that your preconceived notions about folks who you deem below you are bullshit and childish. Have you always been like this or is it a new thing since you've gotten your fancy graduate degree?

If you can't get over it then maybe a therapist can help, but maybe not. If it's so "hardwired" in you to believe you're superior then maybe you're a narcissist and rarely can narcissists overcome their infatuation with themselves to accept others as equals. Of course narcissists are not really happy people, though outwardly they try their best to appear to be. It just means you'll ultimately be alone in the world. That's better right. Being alone and superior is a safer option than just accepting people for who they are and allowing people to accept you for who you are. Perhaps you're afraid of people judging you. Perhaps you don't really know who you are and are hiding behind this superiority complex because you're afraid to just be you.
posted by wherever, whatever at 12:18 PM on September 27, 2008

This question reminds me of an irony I face constantly.

Because my parents were both teachers, they were huge on grammar, enunciation, vocabulary and such. Which is great. It makes me sound educated. The truth is, I was an extremely rebellious kid, and dropped out of school in 9th grade.

I have been in conversations with people who are highly educated, who converse with me as an intellectual equal (which I may or may not be, depending), only to have their jaw literally drop open when I tell them I never even completed 9th grade. They then go on to tell me that they never would have known I wasn't college educated.

I understand intellectual snobbery deeply. Don't be that snobby person.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 12:30 PM on September 27, 2008

Why don't you consider the circumstances that have led other people to live lives different from your own? Do you really think we all have the same set of agencies? You are aware, are you not, that there are impediments to success which some people have not managed to overcome?

If your judgments of people are in regard to their educations and well-considered lifestyle practices, their success at reaching or surpassing your own ideals, stop to think what kind of loser you would be if you had any kind of big, game-changing trauma to contend with. Pop raped you on Sundays up 'til age 8, think you'd still have the intellectual real estate to devote to this bourgeois concern then? HA.

Privilege is a bitch. Empathy is the gift pain gives us.

So, since you're yourself trying to be a "comfortable and charismatic, confidently sincere" or I daresay, simply a "nice" person, instead of a judgmental twat, eschew smartness properly. Cast it right out. Find your intellectual stimulation on your personal terms, don't require it from other people. "Smartness" is worthless socially. Ask an engineer! It's only that deeply personal journey toward personhood and good citizenship that matters in, and comprises the social sphere. How people feel about themselves, their lives, their struggles and desires, and how that impacts the way they share themselves and perform in the world you're in. This is why we ask "How are you?" and not "How cool are you?"

People do go usually about living as their best selves. They lead lives of quiet accomplishment. You just don't see it. Tell yourself you just. don't. get. it. Feel stupid about this. That's totally the right start. Nice, empathetic people like me, comfortable people, will figure your shallow crap out and tire of you. I know it's not nice to say so, but since you're asking, yeah, this makes you a loser in my book. I don't care what kind of car you drive or what your degree is.

One more little experimental suggestion: try to gauge how much love and acceptance you dish 9out on a daily basis. Try to increase it, deliberately. This is called "fake it till you make it." You'll feel nicer by being nicer.

Good on ya for taking on the self-betterment game in the best way possible. Remember that some people only subsist, and that is more than enough. Good luck!!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:31 PM on September 27, 2008 [6 favorites]

I think Buddhist-like concept/practice of non-judgment can be your friend in this case. Googling isn't giving me any knockout punches, but I know I remember reading about this specifically. Part of it I know came from reading about meditation technique. In meditation, you're not supposed to think - but it's hard not to think. One of the techniques to beating it is to observe yourself. You shift into observation mode and and when you have a thought, you don't chastise or judge yourself for having it, you simply observe it and say, "ah, there was a thought" and return to keeping your mind clear. Same thing next time and the next. No darn it or oops or I can't do this, just acknowledgment. So maybe job 1 is to work on not judging even yourself. Simply observe. Maybe you can then work on expanding this outward to other people. The Mercedes person pulls up, or the rustic hayseed in his Jed Clampitt truck, and you simply say, "There he is" and then wait to learn more as people upthread have noted. I'm a horrible meditator (see what I just did!) but it sounds like meditation and non-judgment are a sort of muscle that you must patiently build. Good luck to you. I think it's great that you're doing this, btw.
posted by Askr at 12:36 PM on September 27, 2008

When you want someone to give you something, it comes naturally to be nice to that person. It is a failure of imagination to meet someone and not see some knowledge, some perspective he could give you, if he wanted to.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:13 PM on September 27, 2008

Two suggestions -

First, start with gratitude. Not everyone has had the opportunities you've had. While you probably worked hard to make the most of your chances, you've also had some good fortune in the mix. It's almost impossible to feel incredibly grateful and smugly superior.

Second, be a person worth knowing. Biases are very often about fear. Don't be afraid that people will figure out that you're a sham. Instead, focus doing the things that make you worthy of those friendships.

Good luck. It's never easy to acknowledge a defect, accept criticism and attempt change. You're trying and good for you.
posted by 26.2 at 1:14 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used to struggle with the same thing when I was younger and what helped me most was being in the situation on many, many occasions where the person I was passing judgement on said or did something that deeply impressed me. This comment from above I think describes it most aptly:

It's foolish to put people in categories and size people up upon meeting them. You're going to be surprised many times in life. The person that drives the junker and dresses like a homeless person could very well be the county judge. My high school educated in-laws are twenty times more intelligent than I. They always will be, no matter how many degrees I have hanging on my wall. I know plenty of millionaires (literally) that drive Toyota Camrys.

This is how I learned the lesson that people are not always what they appear. Now I play a little game with myself where I pretend that people that I meet are the opposite of what my first impression would indicate. Like if I meet a scruffy, socially awkward person, I imagine they are a highly intelligent person who finds normal social pretentions unimportant and shun materialism. I imagine they are like this because they have probably travelled the world on volunteer missions and understand how shallow our western culture is and now ascribe to higher ideals.

Or to take the opposite example - I meet a person who is well dressed and seems sucessful and maybe I imagine that they perhaps have bought this expensive suit and car and spent a fortune on skin/haircare, plastic surgery or whatever because they at the heart of things are deeply insecure. Now they have put themselves into substantial debt to build a life that seems pleasing to other people so that they may gain admiration but it has left them feeling empty and unfulfilled. Now instead of giving undue weight to anything this person says or does based on how they look I remember how things are not always what they seem and how often I have been fooled by this in the past.

You wouldn't believe how many times the above kind of scenarios have been true and I only found out once I got to know the person better and have been left feeling deeply ashamed at my own shallowness. So I play this little game with myself and pretend the opposite is true and it reminds me that really, I am just a terrible judge of people and that what I really need to focus on is being kind and compassionate because I cannot really know the truth about people until I get to know them.

I understand intellectual snobbery deeply. Don't be that snobby person.

This is another thing that drives me. I don't want to be "that person", whatever they may be.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:15 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I noticed the people I really admire are those who are respected by a diverse group of people.

I suppose they have charisma. They're usually confident, polite, good listeners. They make the people they talk to feel important. They give compliments that feel sincere. However, they also have an ability to relate to people I wouldn't imagine being in their social circles.

I think this is a skill or aptitude, but it does not necessarily mean that the person does not make judgments. What it means is that they do not show the judgments they make in a way that makes the other people uncomfortable.

This is the skill of politicians and talk show hosts, among others. (I notice the tags "Bill" and "Clinton" that were on this question earlier have disappeared.) I think that it comes with adopting an attitude of genuine focus and interest in the other person and seeking to draw them out.

Whether you, in particular, need therapy in order to develop this skill is something that none of us is qualified to say. Many people develop it without therapy. Some who display it are, in fact, therapists (e.g., Dr. Phil, who can also be quite judgmental). Therapy might do you well. On the other hand, you might do as well by studying communications, joining Toastmasters, or (as suggested above) reading that Dale Carnegie book. It all depends, and there really is no quick and simple answer.

Finally, I especially like what 26.2 said: "start with gratitude."
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:39 PM on September 27, 2008

An interesting question and good discussion here!

To stop the snap judgment, could you immerse yourself in an environment full of things that you'd otherwise judge against? If dirty clothes and high school educations bother you, could you work in construction or at a lumber store for a summer or a year, even just on weekends? Everyone around you will be dirty and half will have no formal education beyond high school, but there will still be a difference between those you respect and like, and those you don't. You'll train yourself to look through the splattered-paint-and-ratty-truck exterior to see what type of person someone really is. Then, I do think once you get the hang of this, you can see through most other prejudices too.

I worked for one of those charismatic people. What makes him so great is his confidence in himself and (somehow, by extension) everyone around him. To that end, I do think doing some work (CBT or whatever) to address your own insecurities is worthwhile. This guy seemed to really believed in the group's plan, and that you personally were going to do great things, so you wanted to live up to that.
posted by salvia at 9:18 PM on September 27, 2008

Stop judging yourself.

Constantly evaluating others is usually done so that one can feel good about one's self. Get therapy for your low self esteem.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:25 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Consider that many wars and embittered altercations that result in acts of violence often result as someone judging someone else. It's a type of judging that carries the seeds of hate. The line between superiority and hate is extremely slim, if it even exists.

When we judge people, we are often trying to deny that part of ourselves that we think will make us common, stupid, or not-so-special. Basically you are doing yourself, as well as others, a disservice, by creating blindness towards your own faults.

Realize you are trying to inflate your own ego, by judging. And when you think of it that way, who's really the fool? The guy who "only" graduated high school or the graduate student who desperately needs this little ego boost to feel better about himself? Hmmm.

Anyways, good for you for trying to change. It may help to:

1) be aware of when you do this (sounds like you're already doing this)
2) when you realize you've just "judged", try not to beat yourself up
3) laugh at yourself for being human
4) secretly thank the other person for making you aware of this unpleasant side of yourself
5) laugh again
6) continue walking down sidewalk crazily laughing and muttering to yourself

Ok, #6 is optional, but it happens to me a lot.
posted by uxo at 12:32 PM on September 28, 2008

Hi, I just wanted to throw this into the mix. I didn't read your post as being particularly judgemental, you sound self-aware and questioning, these are good things. That you recognise your snap judgements when they do happen is also good. You have been groomed by either your background, your peers or society at large to make these judgements, and maybe you're also super-sensitive to other people's judgements of you or themselves - it can happen, we can all give out cues consciously or otherwise.

Don't feel bad for who you are, the opportunities you have or haven't had or the life you aspire to, just be aware that your specific set of circumstances is unique to you and don't assume that others share your thoughts or feelings on any or all of the above. You need to not make it all about you, remember there is no competition unless you construct some. You're already aware of your judgements, just keep listening to yourself and feel the anxiety that causes it to happen when faced with that feeling of 'other - must classify!'. Breathe through it, stop short of the actual judgement. Introduce an unrelated thought or picture to the space where the judgement would have been. In time you'll break the habit.

On preview, what uxo said :)
posted by freya_lamb at 4:23 PM on September 29, 2008

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