Have you ever judged someone? Honest truth, please…
We all have, right?! And the truth is, we've to.
Yet, when we were young, we were told not to judge others. That it was a bad thing to do. "Never judge a book by its cover." Sounds familiar?
I was exposed to several theories about judgement when I was working on my psychology degree — all which contradict the old adage about not judging a book by its cover. In many situations, we need to distinguish between the good and the bad, to make decisions. We need to identify the genuine people from the unreliable ones and sometimes we need to do it fast.
We instantly (and automatically) make a judgement about our environment and the people in it so as to determine if we are safe. This is an essential survival trait to our species, and unconsciously we are hardwired to do it.
Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School, who studies how we judge others, says we do so based on two factors.
whether they're friendly and well-intentioned
whether they have the ability to deliver on those intentions
When we meet someone new, unconsciously we immediately assess him or her for both warmth and competence. We do this based on the way they look, communicate and behave. According to Amy's research, warmth (which relates to trustworthiness) is the most important factor in how people evaluate others, even more so than competence. Thus, the crucial question that you ask is if others have good intentions — can you feel safe in their presence? Do you trust them to be nice to you?
This is a snap judgement you make about people without even thinking about it. Of course, there're also times when you really contemplate how you evaluate someone, such as during a first date, or job interview.
And if you think about it, it's natural to judge — you need to make a decision whether you want to see someone again after a date (are they good for you and your life?), or if you want to hire someone (are they good for your business and will you be happy working next to them?).
We can all agree it is wise to ascertain the reliability, integrity and sincerity of a person before getting into a relationship with them, or hiring them. After all, you wouldn't want to leave it to luck — hoping that a person you're choosing to spend time with is not a psychopath.
There's nothing wrong with being discerning about people so as to avoid making bad choices. In fact, the higher the stake, the more discerning we should be. Therefore, it would be a disservice to ourselves denying that we are judging other people.
Often people who deny they are judging others fail to understand the importance of having good judgement and underestimate the significance and value of the result of such judgement.
So why does the old saying "don't judge a book by its cover" still get repeated over and over again? Is the saying completely useless and misused? Are we wrong to still be repeating it? No. If put in the right context, this saying still holds true.
The definition of this saying implies that we cannot form an opinion based on superficial facts and a lack of understanding of what we're judging. That's true. In fact, often we instinctively make the wrong decision about someone, because we judge them on superficial facts. Ever met someone you didn't like at first, only to end up really good friends with them once you got to know them? Yeah. That.
The absence of analysis and understanding can lead to prejudice and discrimination. We make snap decisions based on our ideas of different stereotypes (such as people wearing hip hop clothing with tattoos all over are all gangsters). If you don't do more than scratch the surface, then how do you know that your judgement was based on fact? You don't. Thus the saying: "don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes."
This saying also relates to empathy and respect — no, you might not want to be their friend once you get to know them, but if you walk a mile in their shoes, you'll understand why they have become the person they are now. And once you understand that, you'll come to respect them more, even if you don't like them. In a sense, you won't judge them because you know why they have become who they are. People aren't born criminals, for example, they are shaped by events that turn them into criminals.
Recognising that we do judge and understanding the reasons why we do so is essential to our well-being. The key is realising that we do judge, and not to allow ourselves to get overly judgemental, as we may miss the big picture of the situation because our eyes can only see that far. Saying that we do not judge is a lie, and failure to understand this may work against us if we ignore this fact. More importantly, we need to be aware that others do judge us based on the first impression we deliver, and the behaviour we showcase to the world.
As a personal stylist and lifestyle coach, I help people shape their image so that people who meet them for the first time make snap decisions about them that are favourable. Everyone will judge you. And while you can't control everything they think about you, you can make sure to respond to any given situation appropriately. And learn to put together a wardrobe that represents who you truly are in different situations (you likely wear one type of clothing at home and another in the office; each which should represent who you are in those situations). The fact is people believe in what they see, more than anything else. I wish that's not the truth, but...
My next blog post will be about first impressions and how you can dress and act to make others like you at first sight!
Thank you for spending time with me.
Chat again soon,