Friday, February 22, 2013

Empathy Pitfall - rushing to judgements

I've been thinking a lot this week about how I judge people. Based on what someone is wearing and their overall appearance I will quickly put them into a group; such as class or ethnicity/race. Based on their actions and the location I'm in, I may make other judgments (for example, if I am walking down a street alone at night, I'll be fearful of anyone walking close by).

When someone says 'you are so judgmental' I believe they are saying 'you are making decisions about who I am before really getting to know me'. So in that sense, I believe that judging a person can be an opposition to empathy.

I don't usually consider myself a judgmental person. However, I am trying to build up my empathy. So recently, when I read this article, it got me thinking about my own rushes to judgment. The story is about a woman who did a series of self-portraits, which captured people judging her based on her appearance. What I found most striking about the article was how it seemed to be so easy for her to find images that contained these judging looks from strangers. Was I like them, so quick to judge? Was I giving strange looks to strangers?

There was another interesting story from 2012 about a woman who had been ridiculed for her weight online. She was a video blogger, so she, of course, made an excellent video response to her critics. One thing that she said in her response stood out to me - that when you see a person, remember, you don't know where they are in their journey. I think this can be applied for any of my judgmental behavior.

So I've resolved to try to break this habit of judgement. To see the person and not their appearance.

I'm doing it by focusing on a person's eyes and facial expressions before I do anything else. I have been trying to avoid looking at what people are wearing or how their bodies look, and to try to see them as people first.

It's hard.

Judging seems to be the path to fear, and it's much easier for me to feel fear by pushing people away rather than bringing them closer. This is part of my own journey, what I'm trying to do.

Thanks for listening. Please add your comments below (anonymous comments welcome).



susanthom said...

hi janet,
i have had so much experience in not judging a person by the way they look or act, and this has made me non judgmental almost all of my life.
i had an uncle and cousin that were gay, so i learned about their struggles, and yet, i knew them as my uncle and cousin; friendly, trustworthy, compassionate, passionate, kind, and fearful that the world would hold them accountable for their differences, and at an early age, i began to question why?
my daughter is in school at 4 a.m. every morning in the army, taking a course to be promoted to sergeant. she has earned the good conduct medal, been soldier of the month, and was just picked as sergeatn for a day in school. she may be deployed in April, and she will be fighting for our freedom.
however, she likes to wear clothes to clubs that others' may feel are weird or inappropriate or strange.
she likes tattoos, but hasn't gotten one yet. she loves piercings, and has many. i have known this girl for 27 years, i raised her, and i put the foundation down.
i love her with all my mind, heart, and soul, regardless of her outward appearance. i know her inside thoughts and compassion and commitment to her causes.
her heart and soul are in the right place.
i think the more people one knows who are out of the "norm", the less judgmental one can be, knowing all the good characteristics of this person, and not caring what color their hair may be that day. :)

Wire said...

a] Fear leads to the dark side. :P

b] re: you don't know where they are in their journey... I used to think about this at the gym. Someone may look at me and think what wimpy exercises I'm doing. But they have no idea if I'm just being lazy or wimpy or if maybe I just doubled my workout from last week and am making incredible progress. Or they look at my body shape. They don't know if I'm 10 pounds heavier than last month or 10 pounds lighter. But that's the way it goes; we judge others by our own standards. We assume everyone's story is just like ours (even though when I say it out loud like that it sounds ridiculous).