Being non-judgmental: How to really stop judging people

By Hanan Parvez

Many people advise others to be non-judgmental. Truly enlightened people, they say, never judge others. But they never provide you with a viable psychological method to do just that. I agree that we shouldn't judge others but the way our mind is designed makes it hard for us to do so.

We like to quickly label others when we see them act in a certain way, without really bothering to dig deeper and understand the reasons behind their behaviour. It saves time, energy and makes us feel good about ourselves!

walt whitman quote

In this post, I’ll tell you how to really become non-judgmental by providing your mind with a good enough reason to do so.

Take a look at two short stories of two people from different walks of life:-

Amir’s terrified mother

Amir, the 19 year old law student, thought that his mom was irritating. “She’s extra-careful, overprotective and extremely cautious. To her, a fire is always about to start and she has to be on the lookout for it”, he said. What particularly irritated Amir was her repeated, routine inquiries that he had to hear almost every day- 

“Amir, did you unplug the heater? Check the gas regulator? Turn off the TV when you are not using it. Make sure the electric blanket is unplugged. No, check it again!” 

Amir never understood how to handle this behaviour. So he was quick to judge his mother as “terrified”, “overprotective” and “irritating”.

Now let’s look at the real reason why Amir’s mother was like that...

Long ago when Amir’s mom was 16, she was once studying till late night and had fallen asleep while a candle was still burning beside her. Her table was located beside a window which had these long curtains that often kissed the table due to gusts of wind blowing from the outside. While she had fallen asleep, the curtain caught the flame of the candle and was reduced to ashes within minutes. The wooden window frame beneath it developed black spots at several places.

When she woke up in the morning, she was terrified. Needless to say, she was duly reprimanded by the ‘elders’ of the house who blamed her for almost ‘burning the house down’.

Years earlier when she was 12, she had witnessed a very tragic episode in her neighborhood in which 3 houses and 4 shops were gutted down by a fire caused by a gas leak. More recently, her husband left the iron unplugged after ironing clothes that had made a big hole in the carpet.

Thanks to these events, her subconscious mind had developed a strong fear of fire. So it motivated her to obsessively check and re-check all the nooks and crannies of her house to ensure that a fire doesn't start in any way and raze the house to the ground.

Jimmy, the over-cautious friend

Most of his buddies considered Jimmy as lazy, coward and a loser. The reason was- he always avoided sports or any kind of physical activity. While many of his friends regularly played a sport or two, he preferred to stay away.

That was not it. He was even leery of sports grounds and public parks where 'other' people played sports. Even if he and his friends had just come to chill out and watch a game, he made sure he had sat in a place where he ‘couldn't get hit by the ball’. This irritated many of his friends and they made fun of him.

Let’s rewind and visit Jimmy’s teens. One day while watching cricket on TV, he saw a batsman getting knocked down unconscious by a super-fast ball. He was 11 at the time. Now these kinds of scenes might not bother adults, but they leave strong impressions on a child's impressionable mind.

Once, when he was 14, he was fouled badly while playing football and injured a leg. It took him months to recover. Another time, when he was 17, he severely dislocated a shoulder while practicing martial arts at home. Today he's 19 and hasn't yet fully recovered from that shoulder injury.

Due to all these events, Jimmy’s subconscious mind came to believe that sports are dangerous. Therefore, it had to protect Jimmy's well-being and it accomplished that by letting Jimmy develop a fear of sports and physical activities. His friends called him names, they had no idea what was going on inside his mind.

Final words

Before judging people, try to understand how and why they think the way they think. You'll always see some sort of a connection that it has with their past. In fact, many times people will directly tell you the reasons behind their behaviour, without realizing that these are the very reasons why they are the way they are.

Amir’s mom, for instance, always used to narrate to her son the tragic fire incidences that she had witnessed in her past but he never paid much attention. Had he paid attention he would've understood where his mother's fears are coming from.

Pay attention to what people say about themselves. Pay double attention to what they say about their past! When you understand the real reasons why people act the way they do, you will become much more tolerant, compassionate and non-judgmental.

Make people aware of the reasons behind their behaviour and they're likely to change it, judge them and they'll be turned off!

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