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3 Steps to Instantly Become Less Judgmental

by Lauren Tharp
by Lauren Tharp

“Never judge a book by its cover,” as the old saying goes…

This applies to more than just books, of course (as any intelligent human being knows). It also applies to judging people by their looks. Or, say, judging an article by the graphic included.

I was recently faced with a problem regarding people who judged too quickly – and judged incorrectly.

I wrote an article about fat shaming here on The Fashion Circle last week. The feedback I got was discouraging, to say the least.

Them: YOUR ARTICLE ABOUT FAT SHAMING IS OFFENSIVE!

Me: Why?

Them: Because of the graphic!

Me: So, did you actually READ the article then?

Them:

No. These people absolutely did NOT read my article about fat shaming. If they had, they would have realized that it was a piece about why fat shaming doesn’t work – backed up by research AND personal experiences! – and why the obese should NOT be bullied about their weight.

Instead, they saw THIS graphic…

TRIGGERED! Six fingers and two words were "too much" for some people — by Lauren Tharp
TRIGGERED! Six fingers and two words were "too much" for some people — by Lauren Tharp

…and decided it was too “offensive” to bother reading.

They judged too quickly. And now my anti-bullying message may be lost to them, and others who may need to hear it. Disappointing.

Therein lies the danger of judging others too quickly.

That seems to be a theme around here this month. Our own Janis Gioia wrote a lovely piece for her “Christian Corner” column this week about why others should refrain from casting judgement on the mentally ill. Likewise, Frank Spear’s “Frankly Speaking” column this week tackled things men do not judge women for, despite women automatically assuming they do.

Judgement is dangerous – for YOU and for the people you judge too quickly.

Judging someone – or something – doesn’t define what they are. It defines who YOU are.

Here are three steps you can take, if you’ve fallen into the trap of being overly judgmental:

1. Work on YOU First

When you feel good about yourself, you’re less likely to judge others for perceived deficiencies.

More often than not, people hate in others what they secretly hate about themselves. For example, if your first instinct when seeing an obese individual is to call them a “fat slob,” then perhaps you’ve got a few extra pounds you’re ashamed of…?

When you’re happy and confident with yourself, you’ll be less likely to lash out at others. Progress starts from within YOU. Before you can change your attitude toward others, you have to change your attitude about yourself.

2. Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt

People are people wherever you go. Never assume that the people around you are without problems. You’re not, so why would they be?

Almost no one wakes up in the morning and decides they’re going to be obnoxious that day. And they certainly don’t roll out of bed and decide to be specifically a hindrance to YOU personally. Most of the people you meet throughout the average day don’t even KNOW you!

Let me tell you a story my mom used to tell me when I was young…

A businessman is taking a train ride. Next to him, is a father with a small child. The child is screaming and crying uncontrollably. The businessman becomes instantly annoyed. This father clearly has no control over his child! Didn’t the father realize that there were other people on the train? Didn’t he see that his child was behaving completely inappropriately?! The businessman turns to the father and says, ‘Can’t you get the boy’s mother to calm him down?! I’m trying to work!’ And the father gets a sad look in his eyes and smiles slightly. He says: ‘I’d love to, Sir. But my son’s mother died yesterday. We’re taking the train to her funeral. My son is upset because he misses her so badly.’

Never assume that you’re the only human being in your immediate area having a very bad day. We ALL have bad days.

If someone is acting “inappropriately” in your vicinity, don’t automatically assume they’re doing so just to annoy YOU. Chances are, there’s much more to their story than there appears to be.

The people you meet throughout the day are human beings, just like you are. We’re all the same. Or, as my friend Monique once said to me: “We’re all tentacles on the same octopus. We have to work together!”

3. Educate Yourself

Our personal experiences are limited. In order to broaden our horizons and empathize with the experiences of others, we must force ourselves to get educated – whether that be through online skimming, book reading, speaking to experts, listening to podcasts, or any number of other means.

For example, if you met one of my uncles, you’d probably dislike him instantly. He’s one of those guys who’s “too smart for his own good,” is argumentative and contrary for no reason, and tends to blurt out thoughts and express inappropriate feelings at awkward times. Most people consider him to be a real A-hole, if you get the picture.

But what if you knew about Asperger’s Syndrome? Would you still be so quick to judge him so harshly?

In my “offensive” fat shaming article, I pointed out that most obese individuals also suffer from some form of depression. Would you still consider them “lazy” once you read up on the complexities and debilitating nature of this mental condition?

Go as far beyond your limited range of experiences as you can. Constantly be learning. Immerse yourself with knowledge of other cultures and mental conditions.

As for me?

I’m going to spend the rest of my day playing video games.

Am I lazy and immature? Or did I work 14-hour days for five days in a row and finally need a day off to unwind?

I’ll let you be the judge. ;)

This article was originally published on fashion