July 6, 2012

On being non-judgmental

A young friend of mine told me the other day that our democracy in Maldives is defined by the freedom for anyone to say anything to anyone anytime.

I thought this was a very good opportunity to discuss with him, and through this blog on this negative and irksome human quality of passing judgment on each other. One of the most important tests of the maturity of an individual is the ability to control this urge to judge others. Of course a judge in a court-of-law will have to make judgments no doubt, or intellectual discourses of critical thinking would entail making judgment. But these are formalized processes that require analysis and synthesis arising out of processes that require meting out justice or forging innovations to our walks of life, as the case may be. These cases are about formative or summative thinking - not a nattering in our spare time about people in our lives. Judgment is also a natural step in taking daily decisions and we make many such decisions during the course of a day. Even to know what to eat for lunch is a judgment call to choose from all what's available on a menu or in our mind. That is fine because that doesn't involve another person on whom you opine.

But when someone else is involved as in how we saw someone did something or said something or happened to appear to us, unsolicited comments or advice doesn't merely fall on deaf ears but hurts and irritates. We know how it feels when we are commented upon and judged by others. So why should we do this to others? It is in fact a transgression of personal space, the protection of which is an individual right in a civilized society and so goes in a democracy that is exercised in a civilized manner. Our habit of constant judging or snarky remarks is more than liable to be taken as impertinence or something that can draw a response to mind our own business. Incidentally, the golden rule comes in very handy here to help us keep check of our own such breaches of conduct. Don’t do to others what you wouldn't like others to do to you!!

Learning to live a non-judgmental lifestyle can be a very hard thing - especially in a society where everyone goes by a tradition of not respecting each others private space or where gossip is accepted as entertainment. Whether done directly or indirectly, gossip is about passing judgment on others – most often in the negative sense. And even though some can laugh off the sting through a good dose of detachment, most times for most of us, these hurt and leave scars in the memory. Tit-for-tats may then lead to prolonged emotional distance and discord.

Nurturing a harmonious society begins with being non-judgmental. It is only then that we can open our minds to listen to another with deep attention, to listen and learn from tweaking out the wisdom in someone else's words, and allowing it to enrich us. It is then that we can begin to move forward on this path to social harmony. Just like each one of us feeling we always have the right opinions and answers, why should we not think that others may also have good ideas? Ultimately it is our ego that ties us to being selfish and divisive and not wanting to listen to others because the ego can survive only in divisive and competitive social conditions where it must win and others lose.

Being non-judgmental and acquiring a detached frame of mind can suppress such offensives of the ego. This is one sure test of a skill for a responsible individual in viable democracy. 


Nashra H. said...

This is very true. I strongly believe that the role of individual responsibilities are very important for a viable democracy.

Anonymous said...

This piece narrates the essence and the secret of accepting others, and teaches us how to nurture human relations.

Being non-judgmental is something we tend to forget and we do not cultivate/improve in our learning process.

It seems very difficult to avoid passing judgment to others. Consciously and unconsciously we do judge people everyday.

Often times our thinking about others is not supported by patterns of evidence and is therefore wrong. And we go by likes and dislikes categorizing people and facts.

This common human deficiency leads to errors in the decision making process and importantly we are totally misled by our perceptions about people.

The ultimate cause is the unavoidable yet very harmful interpersonal conflicts with people around us both in the organizational and societal contexts.

The questions remains. Can we change and become less judgmental. I believe so. It goes with maturity.
It requires dialogue, listening and accepting others view.

It requires, willingness to change and learn, constant practice, feedback and awareness that we as human being we are prone to mistakes. And it calls for evidence based decisions making process while judging others's opinions and facts surrounding us.

It's an ongoing development process of our thinking, emotions, and attitudes, which requires critical feedback and questioning.

If we do so, we significantly improve our ability to relate to others, and contribute to building a better society.

Anonymous said...

There are many different levels of thinking… Perhaps, one of the better taxonomies for classification of thinking is Bloom’s taxonomy. In the hierarchy of thinking, he identified six levels in order of difficulty: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The last level involves passing a judgment. This is the most advanced level of thinking, and involves all lower levels of cognitive processing.

Passing judgment is essential if we are to live in a humane and thinking society. It is our laziness to evaluate what we see around us and act on the judgment that is the cause of decay of civilizations. In fact, this is one of the main reasons for the decay of the Roman civilization. It was freedom of morals. In Rome, the middle and upper classes had the means to yield to temptation, and only expediency to restrain them. Urban congestion multiplied contacts and frustrated surveillance; immigration brought together a hundred cultures whose differences rubbed themselves out into indifference. Moral and esthetic standards were lowered by the magnetism of the mass; and sex ran riot in freedom while political liberty decayed. And through all these, men and women held back from passing judgment until no one was left. A similar Act is being played on the stages of Maldives.

“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil” — Thomas Mann

Abdul Sattar Yoosuf said...

I would certainly not disagree to judgments passed to halt the decadence of society.