Would Santa Wear a Black Beret and Sunglasses? Judging Others
As I looked out over my audience, I couldn’t help but notice the older man dressed all in black, including a black beret AND black sunglasses! Why would he wear sunglasses inside?? He sat back in his chair with his arms crossed. My first thought was that he must be a tough guy looking to make trouble. I felt a twinge of apprehension.
Shortly into my talk, there was a discussion where people shared positive moments. I was surprised when the guy in black raised his hand. He told us about a time when he was sick and a friend had taken him to the VA hospital. He was wearing red sweatpants, sitting in the waiting room, when a little boy approached him and asked, “Are you sick, Santa?” Did I mention this man had a big white beard? He answered the boy, saying that he wasn’t feeling well but he would be fine by the time Christmas came around. He told us how much that made his day.
Wow! This guy had a soft heart. I instantly noted how quickly I had judged him. I speak on how to better understand and appreciate our differences; on how to be more understanding of others for better teamwork and customer relations. And yet, here I was, letting my judgment cloud my thoughts!
Before I was too hard on myself, I also remembered what I had learned from Positive Psychology; judging others is part of our survival instinct to keep us safe. It’s a super-fast reaction. The key is to notice our reaction and decide if it’s helpful or if we need to question it.
Marwa Azab, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of psychology and human development notes that “It is impossible to meet someone and make zero internal judgments about them. Judgments are expectations based on pre-programmed mindsets or scripts.”
I’ve come to appreciate how much easier it is to notice others being judgmental instead of myself. Sometimes I even catch myself judging people for judging others. So let’s remember, whether it’s another person’s clothes, actions, or beliefs, it’s normal to make assumptions about their character. But we can also get better at catching ourselves and questioning our thoughts.
See if you can find a few opportunities to notice any judgments this week.