How often do you judge strangers on a daily basis?
How often do you judge co-workers?
What right do we have to judge anyone at all?
I know, it’s easy for me to sit here and say that. But recently, I’ve been trying to pull myself up when I judge people, and I’ll admit it happens often. A while ago, Sel and I were walking behind three teenage boys. All three were dressed in clothes I would label as right now. I wouldn’t say trendy because I’m getting old… older… but very much in trend.
To be blunt, they looked utterly ridiculous, and I made a snide remark to Sel about the boys. Sel said something along the lines of, “we probably did the same at their age.”
She’s absolutely right. Teenage boys typically wear teenage clothing. Are they trying to fight off peer-pressure and fit in? Did they get bullied when they were younger but now have the confidence to follow their friends? Is it their way of fitting in before figuring out who they are later in life? Do they simply like that fashion? Am I simply outdated? Or most likely, I’ve never had any idea about fashion at all. It can be any of those, a combination, or something entirely different.
What matters though is that it doesn’t matter. What was I trying to gain from putting them down, even if they couldn’t hear me? Did it make me feel better? No, I felt a little ashamed. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t care what other people thought about me. In reality, there’s a part of me that likes to think people aren’t judging my clothing choices, haircut, eating habits, interests, or anything else. It’s such a petty, ridiculous thing to do and all it does is create negative impressions that I find myself attaching to more people as I wander through life.
Being judgemental obviously extends further than the fashion runway. ‘First impressions last’ or ‘make a good impression’ are phrases often blurted out as a pep up to someone hoping to succeed in the world of dating, or in a job interview, but first impressions can be dangerous when people are quick to judge. Forming an impression of someone isn’t a bad thing. The problem comes from what happens after the initial judgements are made.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read the following:
- A 45yr old woman working the drive-thru at McDonalds
- A mid-20’s guy in a business suit talking loudly on a hands free phone clipped to his ear
- An older man looking a young girl up and down at a bar
- Someone who consistently gets out of bed no earlier than 11am every day
Did an image form in your mind? In your mind what did they look like? Did you immediately conjure up their possible education level? Their personality? Or did your thoughts go down a different path? Did you think any of these things:
- Uneducated, bit of a no-hoper
- Cocky, arrogant, brash
- Bit of a sleaze, maybe sad, lonely, maybe even a bit of a drunk?
- Lazy, slacker, unemployed
Maybe I’ve underestimated my wonderful readers and you didn’t think any of those things.
The problem with immediately judging someone is that you can build up a profile of someone in your mind based on those initial judgements. For the 45yr old woman working the drive-thru, this isn’t a huge problem. You’re likely gone within a minute and more interested in devouring the Big Mac she graciously handed you. But when you meet a new co-worker, or a friend’s new partner or so on, it would be helpful to keep an open mind and if you can’t help but make some initial impressions, keep things factual. If someone looks a bit sloppy at work, then they look sloppy. It doesn’t mean they can’t do their job. It doesn’t mean the rest of their life is a mess. It doesn’t mean their poor.
I’ve written this as a way to check myself and be a bit more accountable. I’ve got no reason to judge other people. I’ve got no right. They are who they are. If what they’re doing doesn’t affect me, then it doesn’t affect me and it shouldn’t even enter my mind.