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3 Questions to Ask Before Judging Others

It's easy to make unfair assumptions about others. Doing this can help us stop.

In a world where we only sample brief slices of each other's lives, it can be easy to make assumptions. Judgment can be automatic. If someone is rude, we might call them a jerk. They could be having a rough day, or they might have no idea they came off that way. They are on their journey.

Similarly, if someone doesn't look at us kindly, we might take it to mean they don't like us. It's possible. Or they might also have something else on their mind, or be angry about something that has nothing to do with us.

These judgmental thoughts can slice into our relationships, leading us to disengage. Because humans have a tendency toward negativity bias, we are more likely to make gloomy judgments than positive ones. Yet we might not have enough information and could prematurely be limiting ourselves.

A thought doesn't have to be harsh toward another person to be a judgment. We make guesses about others all the time, many times about how we imagine they are judging us. Sometimes—in fact, quite often—we are wrong.

The following three questions can help you slow down and engage in curiosity before passing judgment on someone.

1. Are there other explanations?

The motivation for someone's behavior might seem obvious, but your initial assumption could be far from accurate. If you find yourself making internal declarations as to why someone is acting a certain way, you might take a step back and ask, "Are there any other possibilities?"

2. Is this something I can look into or ask about?

A lot of conflicts arise in situations where something was assumed without question. If the assumption you're making is something you can ask about or otherwise look into, that may be worth it. For example, if you feel a close friend might be irritated with you, it might feel awkward to ask if they indeed are. But that simple question could be the difference between an injured friendship and maintaining ties.

3. How does this judgment help?

Sometimes judgements do help. But often they don't. Judgments more often keep us from opportunities to learn new things and get to know others. If you are assuming someone thinks something dismissive of you, it's unlikely that judgment is helping you in any way. If a judgment is not doing well for you, it's worth asking, "Would it be better to let it go?"

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