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Feeling Judgmental

To create healthy, emotionally sustainable relationships we want the other person to feel safe, accepted, and understood. Judging does just the opposite. - S. Hein

Here are some thoughs on feeling judgmental - S. Hein


Sometimes when I recognize that I am feeling judgmental, I ask myself what I need. The answer is usually a combination of two things, one unhealthy and one healthy. The unhealthy need is to feel superior. The healthy need is to feel more understanding, in other words, I realize I need to try to understand the person I am feeling judgmental about.

When we feel a need to feel superior to someone else it could be because in our past we were often made to feel inferior. So trying to feel superior is our way of compensating later in life.

If we are aware of this we can be honest about it to ourselves and others. This honesty, in combination with a belief that it is not in our own best interest to judge others, and with the painful memory of when we have felt judged ourselves, helps us let the feeling go and begin our search for understanding.

We could say that this process is an interplay between the emotional and rational parts of our brain. The emotional part of the brain might quickly sense an opportunity to fill its unmet need to feel superior, or at least more equal, but the rational brain might say "Wait a minute. That is not the best way to fill our unmet need."

A thought like this may change your initial, reactive, possibly even instinctive feeling from something which damages your relationships to something which strengthens relationships.

For example, if I let my thoughts lead me away from feeling superior towards feeling curious and interested about whatever it was that I felt judgmental about, then I can begin an attempt to understand. I think it is fair to say that all of us prefer to feel understood rather than judged, so this strengthens our relationships.

We could also say this is a good example of using your innate emotional intelligence, combined perhaps with learned knowledge and increased awareness.

A useful technique, by the way, to use is the zero to ten question for trying to arrive at a high level of understanding. Basically this means asking the other person how much they feel understood by you, from zero to ten, and then listening to them, showing understanding and asking the 0-10 question again until they feel understood at a level of 8, 9 or 10.

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Other writing about feeling judgmental