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Adjusting Our “Judgment” Lenses

It is human nature to make judgments. I mean, how could we make any decisions without making judgments?  Whether we are deciding what movie to see, where we want to go to dinner, which shirt to wear, whether we should buy or rent a house…every day of our lives is made up of tiny to large decisions. These decisions require as to make judgments about what is “best” or at least “preferable” in that moment in time. Perhaps “evaluations” might be used instead of the term “judgments” because it probably has fewer negative connotations…at least according to my judgment, ahem.

Now, this blog about judgments has implications related to  two previous posts on Can We All Get Along? and How Do We Repair A House Divided? So, you might want to look at them prior to reading this one.

I’ll admit that I have a bit of an agenda for trying to promote greater understanding and tolerance of one another, which is particularly relevant as the political climate heats up even more prior to the presidential election. I’m pretty tired of all of the character assassinations that are so pervasive. There is a lot of judgment that goes around about others who believe differently than we do as being out-of-touch, ignorant, elitists, bleeding-heart, heartless, warmongers, socialists…and much worse!

From social psychology, there is often an attributional bias (sometimes referred to as the fundamental attributional error) at work here in that we tend to view others actions as reflecting dispositional qualities about the person(e.g., that guy was rude to me because he is a rude person) and our own behaviors as more influenced by situational factors (e.g., I was a little rude to that guy because I was sleep deprived and in a grumpy mood because of traffic). When we start judging others, we can start to filter their actions through a particular lens such that everything that person does becomes scrutinized and criticized. “That person is a conservative, and conservatives are just selfish” or “that person is a liberal and liberals are just enablers who want the government to take away our freedom.” Moreover, we can start to look down upon that person altogether when we focus on judging the person, which can make it very difficult to form any kind of relationship with him/her.

Now, certainly there are some tough characters out there. I’m not advocating that we should try to be friends with folks like Hitler, Ted Bundy, and others who commit atrocities.  But when we start to judge people negatively because they differ from us due to race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or political party, we can lose a chance at connecting with that person. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with their their actions or views. It is okay to “judge” the other person’s actions/views in a sense, but we don’t want to then judge that person as “bad” just because their views and related actions are different than ours.

Take a others with a different political affiliation than ourselves, for example. The reality is, had we grown up in the same way as that other person (e.g., with their genes, parents, family situation, socio-economic status, religious persuasion, neighbors), then we would probably hold views very similar to that person. In effect, we are trying to mitigate the fundamental attributional bias to a degree by stepping back and looking at things from a broader perspective. When we do this, we can often see that we are more like the other person than we realize.

We are all connected. Our happiness in life is largely dependent upon our relationship with others. Learning to adjust our “judgment lenses” can help us remain open to developing relationships with others who might not see things as we do. And the truth is, if we want to resolve some of the shared problems we have in our society, we are going to have to learn to get along better than we do right now.

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