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Contrary to popular belief, judgment is not a negative behavior. Every piece of stimulus that comes into our life experience—be that a new person, a new taste, or a new sensation—is filtered through our belief system. After the belief passes through the filter, we have a judgment. In its simplest form, this judgement tells us either we like something or we don’t. This process is like our own GPS for decision-making. Why then, does choice sometimes seem so complicated?
Why Judgment Is Complicated
- Quick logic vs. slow logic. There are two entirely different ways that this filter process can happen. The first—quick logic—happens in a millisecond. An example of this would be pulling your hand away from a hot burner before you even feel the burn. This type of processing happens without a conscious thought process that weighs the pros and cons of pulling your hand away. The second is slow logic. An example of this would be if a senior high school student is admitted into two colleges and needs to choose one. They might make a list of pros and cons for each, including things like cost, location, and possible majors. After careful deliberation, they would make a calculated choice. This is also a judgment. Any time you choose one thing over another, you are judging one thing or opportunity as better for you than another. A study by Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and author of Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, shows that choices made using quick logic are our better chocies.
- Analysis paralysis. Research is a valuable tool to make informed decisions, but sometimes having too much information leads us to analysis paralysis. It’s a fact of our nature that we often want to be “right” in our decisions. Recognizing that sometimes there is not a right choice or a perfect choice, just the best solution for now can be helpful. Also realizing that decisions are timely. Set a deadline and stick to it for big decisions. You can also practice this with little decisions. When you go out to eat at a restaurant, decide that you will settle on your first choice and stick to it. Close the menu and move on.
- Popularity vs. Individuality. The third reason we might try not to judge is sometimes our internal GPS doesn’t align with popular opinion. When this occurs, sometimes we question our own ideas, or even if we feel confident in our judgment, we can hesitate to share it with someone who doesn’t agree. Our need for harmony can cause us to shush our inner voice. This is a habit that will eventually lead your inner voice to whisper to you rather than speak confidently.
5 Ways to Improve Your Judgment
In the words of 19th century writer Henry James, “I intend to judge all things for myself; to judge wrongly, I think, is more honorable than to not judge at all.”
- Remind yourself of times that your judgment served you well. This fuels confidence in your ability to trust yourself.
- Avoid flip-flopping once you have made a decision or judgment. If your gut tells you to try a vegetarian diet, don’t allow external opinions or difficulty in changing your lifestyle to be an excuse for you to not follow your gut.
- Practice on little things like clothing choice and menu options so that when bigger judgment calls need to be made, you have evidence to support your belief that you are good at this.
- Never judge someone as less to make yourself feel like more. Knowing who you are and being confident about it lessens the feelings of comparison that might lead us to judge someone.
- Meditate. Time spent in meditation leads to a sort of shaking up of our thought patterns and beliefs. This allows us to escape from the patterns and examine them. When you spend more time being mindful of your habits and thoughts, you begin to notice a shift in how judgments work for you.
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” - Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist