Being Nonjudgmental


What are judgments?

We distinguish three types of judgments:

  1. Judgments that discriminate between things (useful)
    • Example: A store manager judging whether the fruit in her store is fresh or not; a teacher judging whether a paper gets an A- or B+
  2. Judgments that evaluate something or someone as “good” or “bad” (can be damaging)
    • Example: A child who is misbehaving is “bad” and a child who behaves is “good”
  3. Judgments that demand reality be different (can be damaging)
    • Examples: “My kids shouldn’t have yelled in the store”; “I shouldn’t have to be stuck in traffic”

What is being nonjudgmental?

  • Letting go of judging ourselves, the world, and others
  • Accepting reality as it is, without demanding or insisting it be different
  • Describing reality as it is to ourselves and others without labeling it as “good” or “bad

Why be nonjudgmental?

  • Judgments can damage relationships with others and with yourself
    • Ask yourself: How did you feel when others judged you?
  • Judgments can prompt unpleasant emotions like anger, frustration, irritability, self-rejection, or even self-loathing
    • Examples: “My boss can’t possibly expect me to do this in two days”; “I’m worthless”
  • Judgments can get in the way of understanding the cause of problems, which makes it harder to solve them
    • Example: “I shouldn’t have been late to the meeting” stops us from looking back and understanding why we were late, and making sure it doesn’t happen again in the future

What being nonjudgmental is not

  • Being nonjudgmental of something doesn’t mean approving of it
    • Example: You can be nonjudgmental about climate change and still completely disapprove of it
  • Being nonjudgmental doesn’t mean ignoring or denying consequences
    • Example: You can be nonjudgmental of a manager who does not effectively motivate the people reporting to him. You see the negative consequences of his behaviors, at the same time you don’t label him as “bad” or “awful”
  • Preferences are not judgments
    • Example: You can totally dislike eating cilantro (or carrots, or radishes, etc.) and at the same time not judge them as “bad” or claim they should not be
  • Emotions are not judgments
    • Example: You can love or hate a movie without judging it as “good” or “bad”
  • Values are not judgments
    • Example: Having deep friendships or a successful career might be among your values, but that doesn’t make them “good”; you might not value having everyone like you, and this doesn’t make it “bad”

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