Judging People: A Scientific Approach Part 3 – A Smarter Way To Judge People

Judging people isn’t inherently evil. But judging people inaccurately limits our thinking and creates barriers in relationships. We tend to judge people based on how we feel about ourselves. We also tend to judge people based on isolated incidences instead of patterns of behavior.

In Part 1 of our discussion, we reflected on our thinking habits and dissected our method for judging people. In Part 2, we looked at the thinking habits of some really smart people and compared and contrasted our method to theirs. If you haven’t done so already, I highly encourage you to read through the following articles before continuing:

Judging People: A Scientific Approach Part 1 – Our Stupid Way Of Judging People

Judging People: A Scientific Approach Part 2 – Why Our Way Is Stupid

In this article, we discuss a smarter way to judge people with the intention to evolve in our thinking and improve our relationships.

A Smarter Way To Judge People

We don’t have to be mathematicians, scientists, or engineers to be smart. Being smart oftentimes means using good ol’ common sense. It can also mean knowing when to speak and when to keep our mouths shut (a very hard lesson to learn and master, indeed).

In our relationships, being smart usually means being nice, accepting, understanding, compassionate, encouraging, and so on. Judging people usually isn’t smart; and misjudging people is usually self-destructive.

Thus, we need a better way to think about people. We need to practice smarter thinking habits so that we don’t make the rookie mistake of misjudging someone based one single piece of data. We need to evolve in our thinking so that we can secure a better future for ourselves and others.

This is definitely a work in progress, but here is a proposed smarter method for thinking about people.

Be Observant

We are hardwired to make observations. So, let’s maximize our capability and observe everything we can.

Notice everything. Notice the words, delivery, gestures, and energy. Notice how we feel about it and what our immediate reactions are.

Let’s recognize and acknowledge what is going on around us and how we are reacting to it; and let’s not jump to conclusions or take our observations personally.

Be Curious

Once our sensory mechanisms are activated, let’s get curious.

Start asking “why” questions. Wonder, why might the person say that? Why would the person get so angry so quickly? Why would the person remain silent and not stand up? Why would the person start crying? Why would the person be nice to that other mean person?

Then, ask some “what” questions. What kind of day might that person be having? What could be so wrong in that person’s life? What would motivate a person to say or do that? What circumstances might cause that person to snap?

Ask some “how” questions. How would I feel in that situation? How would I react if I were having a bad day and that happened to me? How would I want others to judge me in that situation? How would I make someone else feel if I said or did that? How might that person be justified in his or her actions? How might that person be feeling?

Asking questions avoids jumping to conclusions and making premature judgments.

Be Accepting

Whatever we observe is what we observe. The end. That’s it.

Oftentimes, what we observe has absolutely nothing to do with us. So, let’s not make it about us. Instead, let’s simply acknowledge and accept that someone said something or did something.

Maybe we disagree. Maybe we find what they did or said to be hurtful, harmful, or unnecessary, even if it wasn’t directed at us.

Maybe the person made a fashion faux pas, mispronounced a word, forgot to zip up the ol’ fly, told a white lie, glared at us, or didn’t hold the door for us when we clearly have way to many bags in our hands and can’t grab it ourselves.

Fine. It happened. We can’t go back in time and close that person’s mouth or tie-up the person’s hands. We can’t change what we observed.

Accept the observation and what we immediately thought and felt about it, then let go of need to rewrite history and undo what happened.

Communicate

Let’s not mumble a snooty comment under our breath. Let’s not talk about that person behind his or her back. Let’s not bad-mouth that person to others.

Instead, if we feel that there is a need to redirect a situation, let’s confront the person in a mature, smart manner to better understand what we observed.

Let’s ask the person questions. Let’s use our curiosity and give the person an opportunity to answer our why, what, and how questions. Asking questions is the best way to understand a person and avoid snap judgments.

After communicating with the person, we can determine whether the situation is a problem. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s not what we think it is. If after learning more, we discover that there is a problem, we can then determine whether we are capable of helping to solve it.

But let’s not forget that not communicating can be a very effective form of communication. As mentioned earlier, knowing when to speak and when not to speak is a very difficult skill to learn.

There are plenty of opportunities for us not to speak, yet we often choose to do so anyways. We allow ourselves to take what we observe way too personally, even if has absolutely nothing to do with us. Sometimes when we intervene, we actually make the situation worse because we approach it primarily with our own personal thoughts and feelings.

We need to be better at determining when we should and should not communicate. Here is a quote that I often turn for guidance:

If it is not truthful and not helpful, don’t say it.
If it is truthful and not helpful, don’t say it.
If it is not truthful and helpful, don’t say it.
If it is truthful and helpful, find the right time.
– Guatama Buddha

Enough said. (Pun definitely intended.)

REFLECT

What are your thoughts? What strategies can we use to further refine our thinking? Who can we learn from? How can we continue to manage our reactions and feelings in order to fully evaluate a situation and avoid making snap judgments?

We all judge. We judge strangers on the street. We judge our nearest and dearest. We judge our parents, siblings, best friends, worst enemies, movie stars, politicians, and children. We judge based on race, ethnicity, height, sexual preference, academic background, hometown, and occupation.

We judge. We’re human. It happens. But how we react to our judgments is what matters.

We must take responsibility for our judgments. We must develop better thinking habits in order to prevent false judgments.

And we certainly need to apply our better thinking habits whenever we think about ourselves. But that’s a whole other series…

Again, if you haven’t done so already, I highly encourage you to read through Part 1 and Part 2 of this series:

Judging People: A Scientific Approach Part 1 – Our Stupid Way Of Judging People

Judging People: A Scientific Approach Part 2 – Why Our Way Is Stupid

Please share your thoughts and ideas so that we can all grow and learn together.

2 comments

  1. Hannah says:

    So amazing Rachael! Thank you for sharing with us. Human beings are so amazing just imagine how amazing we could be if everyone thought, judged, lived this way..
    “If it is not truthful and not helpful, don’t say it.
    If it is truthful and not helpful, don’t say it.
    If it is not truthful and helpful, don’t say it.
    If it is truthful and helpful, find the right time.
    – Guatama Buddha”
    Amen to that.. It find it takes more strength to do what’s harder.. It’s easy to judge right away but a strong individual with will can define how they react.

    You Rachael are a powerful woman!

    • Rachael says:

      That Buddha guy really knew what he was talking about :) It’s strange how we find it more challenging to keep our mouths shut than to speak. I totally agree with you, Hannah. “…imagine how amazing we could be if everyone thought, judged, lived this way…” Not everyone will adopt such a principle, but if more people did – especially people in leadership positions – we’d potentially be in a more positive state. Thank you for sharing your insight!

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