Moving beyond judgement

Oct 27 2009 by Peter Vajda Print This Article

The Indian philosopher Krishnamurti remarked that "the highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe without evaluating."

So ask yourself some questions. Are some of the people around you lazy, or do they just do lazy things? Are some kids you see stupid, or do they just do things differently from you? Are some of your co-workers uncreative or do they just approach tasks in a way you wouldn't? Are some bosses cold and calculating or do they just manage in ways you might not? Is your spouse or partner too independent or does s/he just have a different way of viewing a relationship?

Judging as the cause of disconnects

One of the major causes of disconnects between people - at work, at home and in relationship - is our tendency to not only make observations about their behavior, but to use these as the basis make snap judgments about their character.

When we observe someone and instantly label them on the basis of some behaviour or other, we move away from seeing the wholeness and totality of that person.

Many of us engage in knee-jerk, judgmental reactions of others who, in some way appear "different from me." We are quick not only to point out the "bad-ness" or "wrong-ness" of another but to evaluate who they are based on observations of their behaviour.

So: Mary's lazy; John's a procrastinator; Julia's unhealthy; Susan's angry; Mario's a narcissist, Jane's aggressive; Art's a complainer.

None of these judgments is an observation. None of these criticisms points to a simple, objective behavior. All of these are judgments we feel we need to make about a person based on what we have observed.

The next time you find yourself making a knee-jerk reactive judgment, perhaps ask first, "What is that person doing or saying that makes me feel some sense of discomfort?" And then ask yourself, "Why can't I seem to just notice the behavior without needing to make a judgment or offer an evaluation?"

In fact, it would be interesting if during your day you could actually discern between your observations and your evaluations. Many can't, because the habit of observing and judging is so ingrained.

Why we judge rather than observe

When our ego, rather than our heart and soul, is left to do the driving, our GPS is based on looking at the landscape from a like / dislike perspective. Built into this is an evaluative process based on ego-based emotions, feelings, character, qualities, styles, etc.

So the more someone is "not like me," we more we feel a tendency to push away from them. All of this is based on our need, often unconscious, to "be right."

When someone behaves – in thought, word or deed – in a way that does not tally with what we feel is right,, we feel challenged. And when we feel challenged, we feel the need to defend our beliefs, our "rightness". In doing so, we're looking to experience and support a psycho-emotional safety and security with "who I am."

Making judgments about others is how we defend our self. If we can make them "bad" or "wrong," then we're right or good. This dynamic is also the underlying foundation of bias and prejudice. And for many, it is characteristic of living in a world of duality – good vs. bad; right vs. wrong; intelligent vs. stupid, etc.


  • Do you know the difference between an observation and a judgment?
  • Are you quick to judge? What would your friends, co-workers, or spouse/partner say?
  • What do you "get" by being judgmental?
  • Do you blame others for much of your discomfort?
  • Do you become defensive in some way when you encounter people who push your buttons?
  • When you were growing up, were your parents, primary caregivers or others judgmental?
  • Can you envision a world where people can observe one another without evaluating or judging?

Moving beyond duality

The way we move beyond this dualistic tendency is to suspend judgment - to observe without evaluating. When we transcend our ego and come from a place of presence – simply observing - we can start to see the essence of another individual.

From this place we can suspend what we like and dislike and allow our soul to look at the truth (not ego-based subjective truth) – a deeper and intuitive sense of another person based on respect, tolerance and understanding, rather than judgement.

And when we're open and accepting of others, we start to find that we are similar; we are able to accept their personalities without discomfort, resistance, resentment, or difficulty – as we're relating on a level where love and understanding fill the space between us. Rather than making judgements, we acknowledge other points of view and respond with a "hmmm, that's interesting" and move on without reacting.

Not by 9:00 tomorrow morning

Being able to accept and understand like this isn't something that happens overnight, especially for those of us who have a deeply-ingrained tendency towards making judgements about others.

But there are behaviors we can focus on and develop to help us to accept others who push our buttons: patience, understanding, appreciating differences, recognizing the essential nature of others, and being open to, valuing and allowing the uniqueness of others.

When we focus on these behaviors, like and dislike stop being part of the relationship equation. Gradually, they will be replaced by compassion, empathy, acceptance and understanding.

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.