Judging Others: Who Are We Really Hurting?

Apr 20, 2016 | Confidence

What’s with the judgments?

No one likes to be judged. Being judged makes us feel small and defensive.

Still, most of us would have to admit that we are sometimes the one doing the judging.

Though our judgments may help us to feel better in the moment, ultimately they keep us from connection and confidence.

Being the judge

Every day, we make so many decisions about what’s best for ourselves, our families, and our careers, from what we eat and wear to how we spend our money and time.

And because there’s no single “perfect” way to live your life, there’s a lot of room for comparison and judgment.

Sometimes we may even judge others without realizing it – even at the grocery store or on the street, do you ever find yourself disapproving of a stranger?

Why do we judge?

Often you may not even realize when you are judging someone, let alone know why you are doing it. Often the thoughts are automatic, like a habit built up over time.

But when we are judging others, we are usually trying to make ourselves feel better.

Brené Brown, author and research professor at the University of Houston School of Social Work, says that we judge people in areas where we feel vulnerable to shame ourselves: “We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived shaming deficiency.”

In the moment of judging, we will briefly feel superior to the person we are judging.

Judging others harms connection

Most of the time we don’t speak our judgments, but they can still be hurtful. They can register in the other person through a glance, facial expression, tone of voice, or lack of supportive words.

But even if our judgments seem to have no effect on others, they still affect us. They create a disconnection with those we are judging.

When we judge, we cut off empathy and compassion and put people in an “other” category. We can’t see connection and similarities.

Take Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, and the feelings she engenders for her parenting tips on meals involving lots of prep-time and specialty ingredients most children won’t eat (homemade vegetable sushi, anyone?), or expensive children’s clothing (a boy’s sweater is a bargain at $100).

Gwyneth often engenders judgment because she seems out of touch with many people and her advice feels judgmental.

It can be a vicious cycle… and the result is more isolation and less connection.

Judging others harms confidence

If we are quick to judge others, we are likely quick to judge ourselves. And judging ourselves harshly affects our confidence and how we feel about ourselves.

Ironically, the greater one judges others, the less confidence one likely has in herself. I know from my coaching practice, as well as my experience, that when you are truly confident in yourself and your abilities, you tend not to judge what others are doing.

If you believe and trust in yourself, then you are not worried about how you compare to others, and you don’t need to boost yourself up by putting others down.

Another person’s perspective

No one is ever going to make all the same decisions you do or live according to the same set of rules and priorities.

Even siblings, partners and friends are individuals who make different decisions based on a variety of factors such as their own history, temperament, capabilities, and available resources.

What’s more, the judgments we make are often based on false assumptions.

I heard a story once from a meditation teacher who was on a subway sitting next to a father whose children were misbehaving. The father was doing nothing to control the unruly children, and passengers were getting annoyed. When the teacher turned to speak with the father about his children, he learned that the family was just coming from the hospital after their mother had died.

And just like that, one’s perspective – and judgment – completely changes.

4 questions for turning the judgment around

The truth is, most of us are trying to do our best. No one is perfect. We are going to make mistakes, and we are going to make different choices from each other.

So instead of judging each other, let’s recognize our connection and be more confident in our own choices.


The next time you notice a judgment come up, stop. And don’t judge yourself for having the judgment – that’s a double whammy! Just notice it, and ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I really know the whole picture, or am I making assumptions?

2. Is there something in this person’s situation that I can relate to?

3. How am I feeling about myself and my decisions? Am I judging myself harshly?

4. What might be this person’s struggles? Can I turn the judgment into empathy, compassion, or even some kind words?

Let’s connect

What are your thoughts on judgments? How does it feel to be on the giving or receiving end? Shoot me a message or share in the comment box.

And if you liked this post, connect with others by passing it along using one of the icons below.

Photo: “disapprove” by striatic, hobvias sudoneighm at flickr.com.


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Jen Riggs Blog

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Jennifer is the creator of Pathways to Change, a framework for mindful leadership development that integrates coaching, neuroscience, mindfulness and mind-body principles.

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