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How to Be Less Judgmental

Learn how to be less selfish and judgmental and start making friends.

By
Stever Robbins,
June 13, 2011
Episode #178

Page 1 of 3

A member of the Get-it-Done Guy Facebook community, Manpreet, wrote that "my friends comment on how judgmental I am. I think I'm always right and better than others. But I want to be more friendly to those who aren't as fortunate as myself. I want to be a better person."

How to Be Less Judgmental

What a great goal! We all have different approaches to self-improvement. In the East, people seek to become enlightened and non-attached. In the West, we just feel guilt and shame under the theory that living in misery will make us better people. Manpreet's Facebook page shows that he wears dark sunglasses and looks cool. In my experience, people who wear dark sunglasses rarely spend much time feeling shame. We'll have to find another way.

Why We Get More Judgmental Over Time

It seems to me we get more judgmental as we get older. Here's what I believe happens: We have poor memories for things that are neutral or pleasant. Remember that teacher, the one whose name you forgot? Of course you don't. He or she didn't have much emotional impact.

But I'll bet you remember the teacher who was passionate. The one who encouraged you, made you feel like you could do anything, and opened your eyes to the wonder and beauty of the subject. Strong emotions get burned into memory. Without all that strong emotion, you would never have become an actuarial accountant.

Negative Emotions Are Most Powerful

Sadly, negative emotions are more powerful than positive emotions. Science says so. One bad meal at a restaurant can dissuade you from ever visiting again, even if you've previously had several good experiences at the same place. Because our brains pay more attention to the negative, we can emphasize the bad in an experience and become judgmental. If you don't believe me, just consider spandex. When I see Bernice in her new workout clothes, do I notice the beautiful colors and designs on her tights? No. I think judgmental thoughts about the lie that is the "one size fits all" leotard.

Since the negative is stronger than the positive, as time goes by, we accumulate negative judgments more quickly than we accumulate positive ones. By the time we're my age, we're positively crotchety. And that, in my judgment, is bad.

How to Stop Judging

Sports psychology has part of the answer. Two-time Olympian Marilyn King was in a car accident and ended up badly injured, recuperating in a wheelchair. Unable to train for the 1980 Olympic tryouts, she wheeled out to practice every day and practiced mentally. On the day of the tryouts, she had them pump her full of painkillers and she went to the tryouts... and placed 2nd.

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