That’s a tacky tweet.
That’s an idiot driver.
That’s an oversized belly.
And that’s an undersized IQ.
The judgmental mind surveils its surroundings for blemishes and defects.
We scan the scene, we scrutinize the situation, we size-up the subjects.
We are like giant magnifying glasses, burning black holes in the fabric our social perceptions.
Of course, there are different strokes for different snobs.
Techies will judge your choice of smartphone.
Car lovers will assess your mode of transportation.
Health nuts will count your calories per serving.
Academics will smirk at your petty ignorance.
Ethicists (and, unfortunately, some religionists) will sniff for sins.
The ladies (and, unfortunately, some gentlemen) will scan for fashion flubs – from head to toe.
We judge everyone and everything, and we do it all the time.
Are we wired to be judgmental?
Yes, and no.
To a certain degree, judgmental thinking is a natural part of social cognition.
We are constantly categorizing, classifying, evaluating and labeling.
We make assessments on a whim, because, well, that’s what brains do.
So does that make everyone judgmental?
Are we all constantly judging one another, sniffing for scars, digging for dirt?
Judgements come in many shapes and sizes – some more potent than others.
I’ve concocted a catalog of common judgements.
We’ll call them:
- Snap Judgments
- Snack Judgments
- Slump Judgments
- Swap Judgments
- Slap Judgments
- Stamp Judgments
- Spank Judgments
- Swamp Judgments
Before you try saying that ten times fast, let me give you the rundown…
These are automatic thoughts which just pop into our brains.
They are snap judgements because they come and go in a snap.
Loud kid…awkward earlobe…needs deodorant…major attitude…
We don’t dwell on these judgments; we rarely think twice about them.
Like most thoughts, these mental pop-ups simply come and go.
They are pretty harmless and totally natural.
These are a bit juicier.
We chew on snack judgements for the sake of social fodder.
These aren’t heated jabs or dramatic fits; they’re more like nuggets of gossip.
We snack on these judgements because they make social situations more tolerable.
Talking about the weather gets boring; sooner or later, we start snacking on scandals.
“Did you hear about _____ what a _____ I can’t believe she _____!”
It’s petty, and shallow, and hard to resist.
Snacks may not be healthy, but they sure are tasty.
When I get into murky moods, my judgement radar starts looking for innocent fish to fry.
Slump judgements are like bad odors which sprawl out and spread their venom.
The irritated mind looks for punching bags.
Innocent victims, just passing by, minding their own business.
We don’t even know them, but we’re gonna rip on them.
Slump judgements are totally irrational, but they provide the lyrics for our moody blues.
Two women walk into a bar…
Two strangers with an appetite for stalking.
They do the typical up-and-over body scan.
Collecting gigabytes of data within a matter of milliseconds.
It’s so obvious and yet so subtle.
They exchange fire without exchanging a word.
It’s all in the eyes.
It becomes a feedback loop of glances and semi-stalkish stare-downs.
You judge me because I judge you because you judge me because I judge you.
Swap judgements are like cold wars; they begin with curiosity, and end with animosity.
Here things start getting feistier.
Slap judgements are meant to hurt.
They are adult versions of the schoolyard bully.
Under the guise of harmless banter, slap judgements kick us where it hurts.
These comments have sharper teeth and dig deeper wounds than other judgements.
They are generally devised and delivered by your local jerk.
As humans, we have a natural need to classify and categorize.
We like to fit people, places, and things into neat little boxes.
We tag them, bag them, and label them.
Stamp judgements are what we’ve come to call stereotypes.
Super broad generalizations based on super small bits of information.
When we judge a book by its cover – or, a human by his zip code – we perpetuate stereotypes.
Totally shallow, but, again, totally natural.
Human beings are clever creatures, but we are notoriously shallow.
Some people consider themselves morally enlightened.
They are the arbiters of appropriateness, and their standards are golden.
They write letters to editors; they post comments on articles.
They feel an insatiable need to set the record straight.
They’ll correct your grammar, or your political views, or your shoelaces.
They always find grounds for a punitive spanking, and we’re always prepared to tune them out.
When the only thing you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
When the only thing you have is a gavel, everyone looks like they’re guilty.
These are the toxic judgements.
They’re what we’ve come to call resentments.
Swamp judgements are deep, dark, and dense.
Resentments bring an added dose of emotion to an otherwise benign stream of consciousness.
They are fueled by anger and deep-seated fury.
When we milk these judgements and ruminate on them, things get ugly.
Everything gets filtered and distorted through this lens of contempt.
This is where we create enemies, rivals, and lifelong grudges (enter estranged family member here).
The swamp is where the hate lives.
Toxic emotions are just as poisonous as toxic chemicals.
Because, biochemically speaking, that’s pretty much what they are.
Like I said, judgement is involuntary.
We think, therefore we judge.
The question is not if we judge, but how we judge.
A matter you’ll need to judge for yourself.