Are you too quick to judge and jump to conclusions?
Posted on 7th September 2016 at 07:45
There’s no doubt that the ability to make an instant decision – a snap judgement – is an important skill we all need to master. And a potentially life saving skill at that.
While most of us will never face the threat of something big, hairy and hungry heading in our direction – thank goodness (!) – at some time during our lives it’s likely that we will face a potentially life threatening situation. Or maybe more than one. And when that happens being able to make an instant decision on how to react makes all the difference to the outcome…
In such situations our old friend, adrenaline, does the job it was designed for. It allows our natural intuition and mental clarity to come to the fore, while our body prepares for “flight or fight”. In other words to run as fast as our legs can carry us or face the situation head on and fight. The interesting thing is that, with the power of hindsight, the action taken often falls outside our experience – and makes no logical sense – but is the perfect solution at the time.
Whether you’ve experienced such a situation yourself – or listened to others that have – the one thing that comes up time and again is how quickly a decision was made; without any conscious thought being involved. The situation was assessed, options considered and action taken in a few seconds at most completely bypassing all the usual decision making processes. It just felt like the “right” thing to do.
Call it what you may – intuition, gut feeling, instinct, sixth sense or something completely different (!) – this awareness goes much deeper than that we’re aware of on a day to day basis. It communicates to us via our emotions – this feels right, that doesn’t – rather than in words and hard facts.
By contrast are the instant decisions and snap judgments we make every day. Well, many times each day. Made by our conscious mind, they’re usually based on the smallest amount of information and driven by our deepest beliefs, not to mention prejudices.
Think this doesn’t apply to you? Then think again.
Look no further than those snap judgements you make on those you encounter as you go about your day. “OMG how could they eat that / wear that / say that / do that.” And you don’t need to say them out loud, thinking them has exactly the same effect.
Or those instant reactions based on what you see on the television or read in the papers. About the latest “problem”. So often people blindly repeat what someone else has said – or written – without ever having taken the time to ask themselves whether it is really based on the facts, let alone reasonable or true. Or feels right to them. “If x said / wrote it then it must be true.”
The thing about these instant judgements is that they’re simply a knee jerk reaction, based on the smallest amount information. And then, to make matters worse, they’re evaluated using our deepest beliefs and prejudices. With few people ever having taken the time to consciously look at their beliefs – “are they really mine or did I just inherit them from someone else?” – is it any wonder that people get themselves into such a muddle?
Once a judgment has been made our mind treats the matter as closed. Only information that supports this judgement is allowed through, everything else is filtered out and ignored. Hence the saying “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”
This filtering process is known as the “reticular processing system”. It allows our minds to limit the huge amounts of information coming in via our senses every second to a more manageable level. Without it we’d quickly be overwhelmed by all the incoming data and unable to at all.
However, the downside of this is that most people are simply not aware of what information is being filtered out and what is being allowed through. Which takes us back to all our deepest beliefs and prejudices.
So, here’s a radical thought, why not simply decide not to make snap judgements on whoever – or whatever – you encounter today? After all you don’t have all the information and most of it has nothing to do with you at all. So why waste your time and energy on it? Let others be as they choose to be and events play out as they will.
And when you hear someone else rushing to make a snap decision – or repeating something they read in the paper or saw on the television – why not stop making one yourself? Decide to remain neutral – undecided if you prefer – and wait until you have more information on which to make an informed decision. Just because a supposed “expert” said it, doesn’t make it true.
Or, as someone so eloquently put it, “judgement is weakness, observation is power.”
Once you switch from judgement mode into observation mode – and who doesn’t like people watching? – life becomes so much easier. And much more interesting. People and events that would previously have put you straight into judgement mode become fascinating and provide you with so many interesting things to learn. Trust us, it works!
And if you find yourself slipping back into judgement mode, two simple questions will quickly snap you out of it:
“Why did I judge?” AND “What benefit is there to me in judging this person or event?”
And, if there’s no benefit in it for you, why on earth are you wasting your time and energy on it?!?
As always, the choice is yours.
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