Words To Live By: Judgement/Generalizations

(This is one of a part of a series of WORDS TO LIVE BY. This series grew out of a workbook I first made for my young daughters and discussed at the dinner table. These Words include values, good ideas, and Words to aspire to….and learn from….enjoy!)

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This Words To Live By is about Making judgements and generalizations in life. I guess I want to focus on how we look at others and how we look at opportunities and make a generalization or judgement.

From vocabulary.com –A generalization is taking one or a few facts and making a broader, more universal statement. If all the girls you know play with dolls, you might make the generalization that all girls play with dolls. Scientists try to make generalizations based on research — the more data they have, the more accurate the generalization. Generalizations can be similar to stereotypes in that they are sometimes wrong and harmful. Usually, it’s best to stick with specifics and avoid generalizations.

We constantly are making judgements in our minds each day about small and large decisions. We need to make snap judgements about all sorts of things. But, many times we make judgements about others based on emotion, prejudice, previous pain, misunderstandings, etc.

We generalize about some things don’t we? Sure, it is necessary to some degree but these generalizations are unfair and limiting. When we judge someone or something, we limit ourselves, we limit them, and we immediate limit the possibilities.

For instance, I had a former boss that made lots of generalizations. If we’d get a client that was from a certain vocation, he’d generalize “I worked with a few of those people before, she won’t return the forms or follow up, they’re all like that.” He would immediate make a judgement that she wasn’t the type to follow through, she was flakey, and that she wasn’t committed. Guess what? He was often wrong when he made these generalizations and I loved it. Often I didn’t even say anything, but once in while my ego got in the way perhaps and I’d say something like “Oh, she did return the forms and follow up?” I had to becareful.

Sometimes a client or prospect came in dressed a certain way. My boss would make a judgement whether they had money, and if they were flakey, etc. It really bothered me. Again, often he was wrong. I remember one single man came in and was about to retire. My boss thought he was without financial resources and was the type to not follow up. He was wrong.

I’ve had bosses, friends and relatives make judgements and generalizations about all sorts of things. In some ways it is almost entertaining to hear someone talking about their misunderstandings about other people or about an opportunity. I love to laugh at people who say small-minded things (but I don’t classify them as small-minded, nonetheless!) It is unfortunate and even offensive when people start making generalizations about race and creed.

I remember an older lady in my family, she has since passed, she was getting a little foggy in her head as she grew older. She often would see someone, almost anyone, and make some generalization. Many times it was amusing. She saw an Irish man once drinking tea and said “They like their tea, don’t they?”

I, on the other hand, did not know thatJ. She’d see someone riding a bike and say ‘they like to ride their bikes around here.’ Do they? But, it would get borderline racist when she’d see an African American and make a generalization. Many times it wasn’t about a stereotype and maybe wasn’t necessarily offensive by itself, but it was sometimes racist and we told her to stop it.

I had a boss that would generalize about Jewish people due to his experience with one Jewish person years ago. It made me sick. I told him numerous times not to make those statements around me.

What about when others make judgements or generalizations about you?

I recall, when I was young, getting passed over for a few rounds for an intramural football team. They made a judgement about me and how I played without ever having seen me. They were wrong. Soon they had me playing first string.

We’ve all gone to job interviews and felt that the interviewer was making a judgement or generalization right? Relatives often easily pass judgement and generalize about us, don’t they?

How does it feel when someone makes a judgement or generalization about you? It angers me. I feel that I want to yell, point out all of their faults, that I don’t want to deal with them.

I must admit, I’ve been told that I’m not cut out for things or can’t do things many times and in many ways it motivates me. Healthy or not, I use that anger or whatever it is to fuel me to do better. In some ways I do it to “show them” – but that’s not what it really should be about. We need to do things and make choices for ourselves, not for someone who is passing judgement on us.

When confronted by mean-spiritedness, and hateful gossip, respond to it from your position of love: “I don’t want to make any judgments.” Rather than criticizing the mean-spirited person, silently project love. Wayne Dyer

How many times have you had a friend or relative pass judgement on an opportunity, job, relationship?

“You can’t make money in the stock market.”- or – “Real estate is a drag, it’s all about fixing someone’s toilet, tenants are mooches.” – or – “He comes from a big family. People from big families are attention hounds.” – or – “She’s an only child. You know how only children are spoiled, she is so selfish.” – or – “Why would you ever work there? That job just seems so boring/challenging/empty….” – or – “do you put in an honest day’s work in that kind of job?”

These are all actual one’s that I have heard lately. Many people make judgements about a whole group of things because of one or two situations.

Many of us also make judgements because of our own fears and negative emotions. It is a way that we can rationalize passing on an opportunity and doing nothing. It is a way to deny a failure or lack of action.

It amazes me sometimes that even intelligent people will analyze a situation or make a judgement after only recognizing the standard or traditional structure of a piece.  David Bowie

I think of my old boss sometimes and all the things he said. He must have been a fearful guy. He was constantly setting himself up so that if he did fail or not get an opportunity, he had the excuse ready. “Sure he didn’t sign up as a client, he’s one of those _____, what do you expect.”

I see some of my friends and relatives do this too. I love these people and they’re good people, hardworking, giving, friendly – but sometimes their judgement isn’t entirely un-biased. Emotions and fear cloud them. Prejudice too.

Don’t get me wrong, I make judgements, incorrect ones, and generalizations. But I do constantly work at stopping myself. Judging others is such a waste of time and energy. In essence we’re focusing on a perceived negative quality of another person or situation. In essence we’re complaining or worrying about something we don’t even know to be true. Other than rationalizing and making us feel a slight bit better for a moment, how does that help anyone?

So many people build up prejudice, judgements, generalizations as they go through life because of failure, hurt, loss, pain, etc. It is easy to do. It is natural, perhaps, but not healthy.

Are you making judgements? Generalizations? About people or opportunities? Are you limiting yourself? Are you seeing things clearly for what they really area?

A good friend and coach once said, we should not judge an event as good or bad. He said,” I suggest taking words like bad, good, negative, positive out of your self-talk by simply stating what it is without labeling it.
You can change it to “I have empathy/compassion for that person,… Yet If you have empathy/compassion and want to do something (even if it’s sending love or compassion from your heart) that offers something for that person to help Empower them to move forward…use your feelings to help in some way instead of simply feeling “bad” which usually ties to guilt and is a mind and time waster.”

In some ways I think judgements and generalizations, like forgiveness, seems to be about others but in fact it is about us. When we hold a grudge against someone else, it really doesn’t hurt them, it hurts us mostly by what we carry around. When we pass judgement about someone or something, we do limit the other person but we also limit ourselves more by not seeing the whole picture, relying on prejudices, not being open, not being a loving human being. We’re hurting ourselves when we judge or generalize.

Our prejudice, judgements, generalizations often tell others a lot about ourselves, too! Have you ever seen or heard someone say something, some kind of judgemental statement or generalization – that they are trying to ‘look bigger’ or somehow act superior, or put down another person? However the effect is instead that they look silly/small-minded/angry/inferior. We suddenly see what is really inside rather than the fascade they project.

Look. Art knows no prejudice, art knows no boundaries, art doesn’t really have judgement in it’s purest form. So just go, just go.K. D. Lang

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