I've known for years that it's not only futile, but also bad for my health, to judge other people. The nasty feelings of judgment cause tension in my body, which causes stress, and consequently, illness. It also causes unhappiness. It's funny because I only judge people when I'm already feeling a little unhappy, and then judging them just makes me more miserable (though it can give a false sense of pleasure while I'm doing it.)
I had a peculiar experience this morning: I was driving through Manhattan, when I saw a very heavy woman wearing a very pretty sundress, walking down the street. My first thought was, "Wow, she looks really pretty!" But then I realized the dress was white with black splotches on it - just like a cow - and I thought, "Ugh, what a terrible choice for a dress, particularly for such an overweight person!" So my natural, first inclination was to think kind thoughts about this woman I didn't know. My second thought was to find what was wrong with her.
I heard an interview yesterday with Janine Driver (@newbodylanguage), who is one of the world’s top hostage negotiators, and a professional in the world of analyzing body language. She said, "Don't be judgmental; be curious." And though I've known for ever that I shouldn't be judgmental, being given a positive alternative made it so much easier to swallow.
I've always been pretty good at choosing curiosity over judgment when it comes to politics. I see people who have a very different political view than I do, and I'm usually able to say to myself, "I think I can see why they would look at it that way," even if I wholeheartedly don't agree with them. But when it comes to things more human, and less ideological, it's harder for me to see the light of curiosity.
I enjoy writing characters I don't like, in part because I like to play therapist to them. I can see their dysfunction and their backstory behind their bad behavior.
Why is Little House on the Prairie's Nellie Oleson the way she is? Because (a) Harriet Oleson was her role model of how to be a woman; and (b) because Harriet taught her that she was better than everyone because she was pretty and rich. This doesn't excuse Nellie for being the way she is (I know, I keep putting her in present tense, when the real person Nellie was loosely based on died in 1949) but having an understanding of why someone is the way they are can give us compassion and forgiveness for them.
So instead of being judgmental, try to be curious about the person. Maybe they had an effed up childhood... maybe they have a different understanding of the dispute you're having with them... maybe they didn't get the same level of education you got... maybe they're on their way to get a root canal and they just can't with you right now.
People say when you're pointing a finger at someone, you have three more fingers pointing back at you. When I judge people, it makes me feel bad. When I judge people, it doesn't help them either. And when I judge people, I have closed myself off from being curious, and it's my curiosity that can expand not just my creativity, but my world.
Carrie Ingalls, on the other hand- was objectively lame.