Learning to see judging other people as a bad thing is among the best changes you can make to feel happier. This is because we all judge others despite our best efforts. It might be for trivial things like a co-worker taking extended lunch breaks or bigger issues such as a person who routinely hurts others or behaves selfishly.
The judging itself isn’t bad; it is what judging is a symptom of that is harmful. The keyword here is “harmful” instead of “bad,” because instead of judging judgment, you will be better off simply observing that it causes harm.
People with critical or judgmental mindsets are known to have strained work and personal relationships, but changing this can be harder than you think. It takes time and practice to be less critical and judgmental, but there are many ways you can change your outlook.
For instance, you can teach yourself to focus on other people’s strengths instead, challenge your own judgmental thoughts and learn how to offer criticism in ways that are constructive rather than negative and harsh.
If you're struggling to stop judging others, here are some tips to help:
1. Be Mindful
Being aware that you are doing it is the most important step if you are looking to stop passing judgment on others. Although judgment is one of the most natural instincts, try to catch yourself before you speak out of turn or send that nasty email and do any potential harm.
You can’t get someone to un-hear words after they have been spoken. Instead, take a deep breath and see if you can understand where that person is coming from. Next try to rephrase any critical internal thoughts into positive ones or at least a neutral one.
This is because after all, like the dog caught in a trap; we really can’t pinpoint the reasons for someone’s behavior.
2. Avoid Stereotyping
Stereotypes are always bad. They create lots of negativity. The more the number of stereotypes gets formed, the more you will have people around you trying to avoid or “live up” the ideas of what they think they’re supposed to be.
Whether they are based on gender, race, ethnicity, spirituality, appearance or some other attribute, they’ll always be bad news. Stereotypes force people (you included) to feel as if they have to meet certain standards instead of living a free life full of happiness. Avoid making judgments as you will only end up among the gang perpetuating stereotypes.
Here's an interesting TED Talk on the science of stereotyping.
3. Stop Judging Yourself
Whenever you pass judgement on another person, you are probably also judging yourself pretty harshly as well. It is not an easy thing to do, but you have to stop judging yourself and focus more on the positives aspects of you.
This will make it easier to see good in others and focus on the good things you see in others. There is no reason to be hard on yourself.
4. Look for Basic Goodness in People
This is one thing you have to train your mind for and it takes time because our minds naturally scan for the negatives, but we can always find something good in other people.
When we judge people, we not only make them feel bad, we also feel worse afterwards. While you may get a tiny adrenaline rush from making judgments, you will ultimately end up feeling guilty. Basically, you put yourself down whenever you put others down.
5. Educate Yourself
It is important to learn what motivates other people’s actions. For example, when someone keeps behaving in an annoying manner, it may be due to a hidden disability or they may be going through problems unbeknownst to everyone else.
For instance someone with Asperger’s syndrome may have poor social skills if they keep invading your personal space, just keep in mind that it isn’t about you, it is about them.
There's a famous quote from Einstein that perfect captures this concept. Think it over.
6. Try to Find Common Ground
In the famous words of Maya Angelou, we are more alike than different. Whenever feelings of critique towards other people start creeping up, try reminding yourself that they probably love their family just like you do and will jump at the chance to be happy and free of suffering - just like you.
Most importantly, remember that other people make mistakes, just like you do.
7. Find Ways of Feeling Good About Yourself
Improve aspects of your life that are critical to your happiness. For instance, if you feel that your parenting is good, you will have no interest in judging other people’s parenting choices. If you work on your body and feel good about it, you won’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or physical appearance.
Instead of worrying about what others are wearing/doing/etc. Think about your own life and focus on it. It is very easy to criticize others when you are trying to avoid your own problems, instead, think about you and only focus on the good things.
8. Don’t Blame Yourself
Our survival instincts are instinctively hardwired in us. When we come across a person (or a dog) that might literally or metaphorically bite us, we would of course feel threatened. In most cases, we revert to fight-flight mode and are unable to put a finger of the myriads of possible reasons that could explain the actions of other people.
We get defensive and tight. This is quite normal for a first reaction; the most important thing is to pause before you act when coming out of this mode.
You are bound to meet people who disagree with you are strive to make things really difficult for you. When this happens, remember that it is not always about you. Their behavior could be caused by their struggle or pain. Why not check your reflexes and instead give that person the benefit of doubt?
“Never underestimate the pain that a person may be going through because in all honesty, everyone around us is going through some sort of trouble. It is just that some of us are better at dealing with it than others” - Will Smith.
10. Cultivate Compassion
Remember how bad it feels to be judged. Now remember how you felt the last time you judged another person. It doesn’t feel good to judge or be judged so you should put an end to it now. It is a good thing to remember this the next time negative thoughts out others creep up in your mind.