September was the Suicide Prevention Month. Now it’s almost over. But the month is only a symbol to raise awareness. Suicide prevention is an ongoing battle — something that we should be fighting for every day.
If you want to join the cause, this article will provide you with a great first step to take.
One of the main causes of suicide is silence.
People die because they don’t have the courage to reach out for help. They suffer in silence because they’re afraid that if they talk, they will be misunderstood and judged. Mental illnesses have a way of making a person believe that no one understands them.
Being a welcoming, open-minded, and non-judgmental presence for others can literally save lives.
What does it mean to judge someone?
In the dictionary, ‘to judge’ is to form an opinion about something, usually after a careful consideration. What we are talking about here is one specific form of judgment: prejudice. That is the act of forming or holding an opinion about something before understanding it. When I mention ‘judging’ from now on, please keep that definition in mind.
Humans judge the world around them all the time. And that is not always bad. In fact, to be able to judge situations correctly is essential for survival. If you see a snake, it is wise to consider it poisonous and to react accordingly. The snake might not be dangerous, after all, but by walking away from it, you would be ensuring your safety in case it was.
We use our judgment throughout our daily lives to decide how to react to all kinds of things. Including people. That’s when it gets tricky.
It is, of course, wise to judge and to decide who you should keep close and who you shouldn’t. In some cases, it is clear. If someone offers you heroin, you should definitely walk away. But in most cases, life is not that simple, people are not that simple, and you need to get to know them before you can judge.
This is when prejudice can be extremely harmful. When we do not know much about something, we tend to judge too quickly and to push people away. If you do that, you might be losing the chance to meet someone who could have been your best friend. Worse, you could be hurting that person deeper than you might think. Prejudice, especially when repeated (as in stereotypes), can scar a person for life.
How to stop judging
Like I said above, to judge — and to judge fast — is a natural human instinct. Because it is in our nature, it can be difficult to “turn off”. But with practice and determination, it is possible.
Here are a few things that you can try to do to avoid judging others:
Learn how to be happy and comfortable with yourself
When we are not happy about ourselves, it is easier to look for flaws in others than to take care of our own. Work on getting comfortable with who you are, even if there are things that you’d like to change. When you feel tempted to look for the worst in others, try to focus that energy on finding ways to improve what you don’t like about yourself. You will feel better and reach a deeper understanding of yourself that will lead you to be more comprehensive with others.
Challenge judgmental thoughts
Judgmental thoughts are normal and feel normal, so much that we hardly even notice them. Watch your thoughts and you will soon find yourself being judgmental towards someone.
When you do, challenge that thought and try to replace it with a positive one.
Look for the good in people
This is a complementary step to the previous one. To change your judgmental thoughts, you have to see what you like about the person.
For example, you might think, “I can’t believe Mary called in ‘sick’ today! I bet she was trying to avoid this afternoon’s meeting!” Replace it with a positive thought: “But Mary is a really kind and attentive person. Maybe she really is sick. I should text her later to see how she’s doing!”
One of the main reasons why we judge people is because we don’t understand something about them. Educate yourself on topics such as sexual orientation, gender identity, religious diversity, etc. You will see that we are more alike than we are different. You’ll become less judgmental, kinder and happier.
Work on accepting opinions and options that are different from yours. You don’t have to agree with them or to support them. You only have to respect others’ opinions and choices. They are as entitled to their lives as you are to yours.
Remember other people are people just like you
This is my favorite advice that I found while I was doing research for this article. I’m stealing it from Barbara Markway from Psychology Today. She reminds us to repeat the mantra “just like me” every time we feel like judging.
Remember our example with Mary? You could add that to your new positive thought: “Maybe she really is sick, just like I was last month. I should text her later to see how she’s doing!”
Show people that you are a non-judgmental person
If you want people to trust you with their problems, it is important to let them know that you are not going to judge them. They won’t know it if you don’t show it.
Step away from gossip
Always. Think with me: if you are used to gossiping with someone about others… would you trust them with your secrets? Of course not! That’s why you must never take part in gossiping if you want people to be comfortable with telling you about their lives.
Put yourself in their shoes
This is how you show empathy. People will be more open to you if they see that you’re trying to understand their situation, even if you’re not getting it right.
Learn to ask questions when you don’t understand something
It’s easy to make assumptions when we don’t know or don’t understand something. Try your best to avoid this. When we are not the ones experiencing a situation, it’s easy to take wrong guesses. If you don’t know or don’t understand — ASK. People will be grateful that you are trying your best to relate to them.
With these little steps and some practice, you will soon begin to be perceived as trustworthy by the people you encounter. That will guarantee that they feel comfortable to reach out to you for help if they ever need it.
Have you ever felt judged? Have you ever judged someone, then noticed that you were wrong? We’re here to hear your story! Share it with us in the comments below.