I didn’t recognize my neighbor when I ran into him at our community picnic.  He had grown a beard, looked like he had lost weight, and wasn’t wearing his usual custom tailored ensemble. I could sense he was uncomfortable when my husband and I approached him.

As my husband commented on his beard my neighbor took on a defensive body stance and roared, “YES, everyone in this neighborhood judges.”

He was correct. He was being judged. We all judge.

We aren’t being honest with ourselves if we don’t admit we judge. Whether we believe we are too enlightened or aren’t consciously aware of judging others, we judge.

We are human. Judging others is part of our survival instincts. It happens within seven seconds of meeting someone.

We don’t intend to do it. It is accidental, unintentional, and subtle. The mind looks for relatedness. Whether others are ‘in’ or ‘out’ of a social group; when someone is a friend or foe; if someone is part of our tribe. We feel safe when we can relate to someone.

The body generates a threat response when it doesn’t feel socially safe. It releases neurochemicals such as cortisol, testosterone, and norepinephrine to prepare you for a negative encounter. This is why some people are uncomfortable with parties and networking events. Walking into a room where you don’t know anyone can be intimidating. You feel raw, insecure, and vulnerable. Your brain chemistry stays in protective and distrust mode, instead of opening yourself up to possibilities. It is here where communication becomes superficial dialogue, instead of authentic connection.

Judgement limits our potential as human beings. @tracy_martino (Click to Tweet!)

Even though it is part of our biology we need to get beyond its limitations to increase trust, engagement and communication.

I have used the following techniques with my clients to get beyond judgment and explore the potential of our differences.

Accept its Human

We can articulate how we feel, “I’m angry,” “I’m frustrated,” “I am uncomfortable,” but usually we don’t know why. You can alleviate your suffering by understanding and accept it is within our biology. The human brain is wired for survival and judgment. You can understand it instead of fighting it.

Look to Connect

Don’t allow judgment to prevent you from connecting. When we ask discovery questions we open up the brain for connection. The brain down regulates the neurochemistry of distrust and up regulates the neurochemistry of trust. Try asking someone, “What would you do if you couldn’t fail?” or “What are your aspirations?”

Evaluate Hidden Biases

Judgment reveals our hidden biases. Many studies show a link between hidden biases and actual behavior. This can appear when one excludes, harasses, or withholds communication. Evaluate your beliefs about certain stereotypes and prejudices.

Observe Triggers

Ask yourself, “What is it about this person that triggers me?” When we are able to identify our triggers we bring awareness to our consciousness. We can, therefore, better understand our beliefs and patterns. Our social triggers usually fall into the following categories: status, uncertainty, fairness, relatedness, or freedom.

Detach, detach, detach

Our ego likes to attach to drama. When you are conscious of your judgment of another, or their situation, detach yourself emotionally and seek to understand why you feel the need to judge. Attaching to judgment requires a lot of energy. Stop this energy draining pattern by creating awareness.

Human beings will never stop judging. Judging doesn’t make someone bad. Now that you understand it is part of our biology don’t allow it to prevent you from connecting and expanding. Understanding judgment can create profound change, collaboration and growth.

Tracy Martino is a best-selling author, writer, poet, speaker and Neuroleadership consultant. She has made it her mission to help people connect from a place of trust, collaboration and understanding. Tracy lives in Boulder, CO with her kids, husband and dog. You can find Tracy at www.tracymartino.com or follow her on Twitter


Image courtesy of SplitShire.