7 Top Tips To Be Less Judgemental And More Acceptant!
By Ozlem, May 31 2015 06:37PM
On Saturday 1st September 2012, I experienced maybe one of the most fascinating moments of my life at the main stadium during the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games in London:80,000 people from all around the world giving a standing ovation for about 10 minutes to one of the competitors in men's 1500 metre race, in the T46 category.
No, the 35 year- old, one- armed runner Houssein Omar Hassan from Djibouti wasn't the winner. In fact, the winner had finished the race about 8 minutes earlier. But the spectators united for this man who literally 'fought' with his soul to complete the race. At first there was some confusion amongst the crowd and it took us a little while to fully comprehend what was going on. All contestants but one had finished the race. And this single runner, continued on and on...The cheers and applauds of the crowd became a roar in unison and people started rising section by section each time he passed by. Many including my husband and I had tears in their eyes. It felt like 80,000 of us were reaching out to him but also to each other. We were from different parts of the world, from variety of cultures, but at that moment we were ONE! This was much more than a great moment in time. Maybe a spiritual moment or a moment that cannot be boxed into the 5 senses. And the energy in the stadium was incredible! We were stunned, exhilarated, humbled and totally happy.
Unfortunately, when we bring our awareness to everyday moments, we inevitably recognise how judgemental our world is. And the media shaping our cultures only perpetuates this further with the way they broadcast and publish their stories- mostly directing the audiences to the differences of genders, religions, cultures and societies rather than the similarities. Still, what we were all reminded on that Saturday was that our core is ‘ love’. We have the full capacity to drop all judgement and be open and acceptant of one another.
So, how can we try to implement a non-judgemental attitude in our lives? Here are a few ways:
1. Catch yourself judging
The first step is to be consciously aware of the fact that you’re passing judgements on people. Imagine this scenario for a moment: As you are waiting for your train on the platform, you realise there’s a young man near you. When you notice him, the immediate thought in your mind is: “This guy is seriously overweight!” followed by “He’s too young to be this heavy!” And then… “Does he not have parents, family or friends who care- why didn't they stop him from putting all this weight on?” “Those trousers look don't look right on him!”…We all know how thoughts work. They go through our minds one after the other every second. When judgement crosses your mind, especially for no reason (i.e. nobody tried to approach you in an inappropriate way, or said/ did anything to you or someone you cared about etc….) the first thing that you need to do is to catch the negative thoughts and the emotions they evoke. When you catch your judgemental thought pause and take a deep breath. Time to focus on the positive or the ‘helpful’ which will enhance your relationships rather than creating distance!
2. Be reflective
Judgement is actually never about the others- but about us. The key thing is to identify what's going on inside of us that triggers the judgement- which means we must take a good look at ourselves and check the state within. Going by the example above you can ask yourself a few questions: “What does this person being overweight has to do with me? Does he remind me of someone who was unkind to me in the past or someone who I knew in a negative way? Am I often judgemental to myself and particularly around my weight? What does this have to do with my beliefs about weight and particularly my weight? What message does this emotion give me about myself?"
Reflective questions like these will help you understand what’s going on inside you better and allow you to refocus your attention. More often than not, when we suddenly feel negatively towards others- especially towards people we don’t know well or we don’t know at all, it’s about our past experiences, disappointments or fears. Maybe you once had an overweight acquaintance who was unkind to you. Maybe you were raised in an environment where being overweight was frowned upon regardless of the reasons behind it and you adopted those beliefs and behaviours without questioning them. Negative emotions are powerful and they stick in our minds more than the positive ones.
3. Refrain from "generalisation"
We can see many examples of how “generalisation” or “stereotyping” actually is damaging to relationships. Generalisation is categorizing people and it’s a massive barrier to open and positive communication. When we put people in various boxes and decide who they are before even getting to know them, we really are not giving them a chance. Thoughts or sentences beginning as follows sound quite unfair: “All artists are…” “Rich people are…” “Poor people…” “All women…” “All men…” “People from the south are....” The list goes on... How can we possibly know everyone from a certain locality, group, gender, culture, country or religion? Each and every human is unique with their experiences, ideas, challenges and dreams. And each and every individual deserves at least one chance. Yes, our conditions or environment have an influence on us but this doesn't mean we are all affected in the same way or end up learning the same thing from similar experiences. So the best thing is to keep an open mind and give a chance to get to know people for who they are -without any labels. If you want to find out more about someone, ask them questions. And most importantly “listen” to the answers!
4. Focus on the ‘similarities’ not the differences
Psychologists claim although we may notice differences from a young age we do not judge during the early years of our existence. However as we grow up we are taught to do exactly that by the societies we live in- which once again are increasingly influenced by the media as mentioned before. Of course in a small number of instances this is necessary so we can be away from harm. But in order to train our brain to be less judgemental we need to train ourselves to find commonalities with others. One thing you can do when you notice differences about another person is to shift your attention to ‘similarities’. When you come across people you need to interact with and you find yourself repelling, ask some simple questions: What is common between you and them? What brings you together? Similar taste in fashion? Similar haircut? Reading the same newspaper? Living in the same area? Once you begin this process you might be able to find many commonalities. However, the two factors that will always be the uniting ones are that we are all 'human' and we all have 'challenges'. In these, we definitely are joined together. So whenever you catch yourself judging someone and you do not want to, just remember they are valuable because they are here on this earth and they too have challenges that you have no clue about.
5. Activate empathy
Could you at least try to put yourself into someone else’s shoes? Understand first, then do your best to be understood? When I catch myself being judgemental, I make up a story about the other person or the situation that would help me adapt my perspective. If someone is being rude or unkind for no reason I can think of, I predict a challenge they might be going through at that moment that’s causing the behaviour. Even if I'm not entirely accurate, activating my empathy helps me be in control of my own response and behaviour. After all, my thoughts, emotions and behaviours are the only ones I need to be and can be in charge of.
In similar situations a few questions you can ask yourself are: What might be the back-story of this person? What types of challenges might they have right now? How might those challenges be impacting their thinking and behaviour? How can you best respond to their behaviour?
6. Don’t give in to ‘gossip’
'Gossiping' is focusing your attention on the negative and at times possibly going into a 'fantasy' world. Not only is it unkind and unfair, as the person being talked about is not there to give their side of the story, but it is ever so time and energy consuming. It doesn't bring anybody any good. It doesn't solve any problems - in fact it generally makes them worse. Even more importantly: What positive things could the time and energy spent on gossiping be dedicated to instead?
7. Look for role models
Most of us do have at least one person in our lives who seems to be able to not judge but understand instead. Who are the people around you that seem to never pass judgements on others? Who are the most understanding people you know? Who are the ones that managed to have mastered what you’re trying to grasp? Observe their attitudes, behaviours and relationships. And decide what you can learn from them that will help you to be less judgemental.
It might take a while for practice to make “perfect” but it won’t be too long before practice makes “better”.
Until next time, wishing you fun and growth!
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