The Dangers of Opinion: Why We Judge Others (and Ourselves), and What To Do About It

Judging ourselves and others is a part of our daily lives, whether we like to admit it or not. Some of these judgments are positive, others are negative. The effects of our negative judgments can sometimes be so deeply rooted in our minds that we may not even realize how much of an impact it has on the way we think- because it feels so normal. In this episode of The Motivational Intelligence Podcast, Sean Johnson and Dave Naylor discuss the impacts of our judgments, where they come from, and how to change them when they become detrimental. They touch on many important points such as what confidence really is and why it is so important, and whose opinion you should really be paying attention to. This is a completely universal topic that all of us struggle with from time to time, but the good news is that there are many simple ways that we can control it and make it better. There is a lot to be learned from this episode, so it is definitely one that you won’t want to miss! Be sure to check out our newest episode of The Motivational Intelligence Podcast entitled “The Danger of Opinion: Why We Judge Others (and ourselves), and what to Do about It”, and as always, let us know what you think and check us out on social media!

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Episode Transcription

The Dangers of Opinion

Sean Johnson: All right. Welcome back. What’s up Dave?

David Naylor:  How you doing Sean?

Sean Johnson: I’m hanging in there.

David Naylor: There you go.

Sean Johnson: Not doing too bad. I got a good topic I wanted to chat about today, that I think it will be kind of a fun conversation.  I wanted to pick your brain on…

David Naylor: Can I let you know at the end?

Sean Johnson: Yeah, we’ll see where it goes.

David Naylor: Sean, this was a dumb topic

Sean Johnson: Yeah, we’re rolling whether you like it or not there, pal. I wanted to talk about judgment. Yeah, we’re going deep today. I’m feeling deep.  I think particularly now, you’ve got the media and social media and all of that, their snap judgments are very, very commonplace.

David Naylor:  It is the way the world we live in.

Sean Johnson:  Yeah, it really is. So I thought it would be good to go there. … And from a lot of different angles. So maybe we just start kind of broad. What is judgement? How should we be thinking about this?

David Naylor: Well I mean, really judgment is like a personal opinion or our conclusion on something or really a kind of a measurement against our standards, I guess you would say.

Sean Johnson: Oh, that’s a good way to put it.

David Naylor: Not that those standards are relevant or even true.

Sean Johnson: Right.

David Naylor:  But it is a measurement against our standards.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. Okay. So is there like an evolutionary purpose to this? It seems to be that human beings are pretty wired or predisposed, or conditioned to judge either other people or themselves. Why is that?

David Naylor: That’s a pretty interesting question actually.  This summer I read a book.  It was “A River Out of Eden” by Richard Dawkins, I believe it was.

Sean Johnson: Oh, is this the one that you picked up, Ray Daleo?

David Naylor: Yes. So Dawkins I believe is a biologist, and he had talked about, I think the subtitle of the book is a Darwinian view of history. I think it is.

But it was interesting, he talked about in the book how us as human beings and how every aspect of who we are today exists for a specific evolutionary purpose. Basically at its root cause, it was for perpetuation of the species. The things that survived over the course of evolution only really survive because in some way, shape or form, they better prepared us to perpetuate as a species.

Earlier this year I was up in Canada and I was working with one of our clients, and there was another consulting firm that was in there, and the gentleman came in and he was doing a presentation on basically the human mind and the evolution of the human mind.

One of the things I remembered that he talked about is how there’s three tiers of our mind or three kind of generations of how our mind evolved. So the first and core aspect of the human mind he said is the reptilian mind, the second one is the Mimillian mind and the third is the conscious mind.

So, we evolved in that in that order, if you think about think about what each stage of the mind was really designed to do. I remember him talking about the reptilian mind and it’s funny, he said:

“The primary focus of the reptilian mind can be remembered by the four F’s it was, it was about food, fight, flight and … reproduction.”  Those were the initial drivers of us as a species.

So if you think about judgment as it relates to those four F’s, judgment served a purpose in that. It allowed our ancestors to be able to come into a situation and very quickly define: “which of these four areas does this relate to?”

They could make that that snap judgment, look at it and say, “okay, am I in danger? Do I fight my way out of this? Do I run away?  Is there food available here or is there an opportunity to reproduce here?” So judgment, I think it appeals to us at a very primordial level because it really was something that, at the most root level of the human mind, perpetuated the species.

Unfortunately though those four fs, the relevancy of those is a little different than it was at that point in time, food’s a lot more readily available. With fight or flight we’re not in those kind of dynamics all that often.

The fourth F is probably still relevant. But still, because that judgment instinct is so deeply embedded in the very most core fundamental aspect of our brain, I think that’s why it still exists.

Sean Johnson: Yeah, sure. So, you touched on it, but where does it show up today?  Because like you said, a lot of those things aren’t nearly as prevalent or urgent as they were before.  We have an abundant amount for most of the world.  It’s an abundant amount of food and we have pretty good shelter and we’re not constantly in that kind of danger. So where does it show up? Where does that judgment show up today with, without those things being as prevalent?

David Naylor: I think that unfortunately, it shows up in a lot of different areas. I mean, obviously it shows up in us as individuals, as we look at others, and others look at us.  But I think probably the biggest way, particularly in the last 20 years, judgement has been a really incredibly effective tool to manipulate people so that you can market things through them; to manipulate people so that you could capture their attention; to manipulate people in a way that you could drive up your ratings, so judgment is really a wonderful tool to emotionally charge somebody and to polarize them. The more you can polarize them, the more emotion you engage, and then you can begin to attach things to that emotion, whether it’s selling something, whether it’s driving ratings, or whether it’s getting someone to vote.

Sean Johnson: You said the last 20 years, why do you think that, what happened 20 years ago? Is it the Internet? What’s happened in the last 20 years?

David Naylor: Well, I think that certainly, even predating the internet, there’s a lot more outlets today then, then there used to be.

Sean Johnson: So it’s a lot more competition for attention.

David Naylor: Exactly. So, you had to become more sophisticated in capturing it because there’s a lot more distractions. So whether it started with the explosion in cable TV and the multitude of channels, and how do we drive people to our channels, right?

Sean Johnson: Yeah. And news used to be, we’re competing against three other channels, versus now where you’re competing with 3000 other channels.

David Naylor: And you’re competing 24 hours a day instead of an hour an evening. So not only do you have a lot more outlets, but you have a lot more time. So I definitely think that’s driven it. Certainly Internet hasn’t helped because now, now you’ve got even more outlets and more things.

Sean Johnson: Everybody’s basically got their own channel.

David Naylor: Exactly. Tristan Harris, in his interview recently, was talking about the attention economy and how we have basically monetized people’s attention. So I think you’re absolutely right. I think that inspiring that instinctual judgment, it just helps to capture people’s attention.

Sean Johnson: And makes people money. When you look at it at it that way, why it’s kind of perpetuated as much as it has and as explosively as it has, I think it might be helpful for us to kind of understand it on more of a fundamental level.  So for example, why do we judge- let’s start with ourselves. I think it’s pretty common that people judge themselves. They are  hard on themselves. So why  do they do that? Why do we do that?

David Naylor: I think at the most fundamental level it is an outgrowth of a feeling of inadequacy or incompleteness. In some ways, we’ve talked about this in other conversations.  We look for things that align with our dominant thoughts and beliefs, positive or negative. Certainly there’s a wealth of research out there that talks about the self-esteem based issues that that exist in society, the fixed mindsets, those things that hold people back.

So if you’re looking in and you see a progressively larger percentage of the population that is externally validated and feels in some way, shape, or form a sense of “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not keeping up”, or other “people’s lives are better than my life”, or “something is incomplete in me”, judging ourselves actually validates our feelings of inadequacy, as crazy as it sounds. So it’s almost like a self-perpetuating negative spiral in that sense.

Sean Johnson: Yeah, it’s that cognitive consistency that if you think of yourself as unworthy or inadequate, your brain’s just looking for reasons to reinforce that. So what does that mean?  I can’t imagine that’s good. What are the repercussions of that?

David Naylor: Well, I think what it does is it serves to make us feel at a root fundamental level, it undermines our own sense of value.  In that sense, I think that it also  it tends to heighten ourselves from an emotional standpoint, it raises our stress levels about things.  In a lot of ways, it the shapes our expectations of who we are, of what we’re capable of, of how the world should work around us, how other people should treat us.  It creates a kind of a rose colored perspective on the world, although not a wholly accurate one.

Sean Johnson: Right. Yeah.  I would think it would perpetuate kind of this self sabotage engine where, if you have these deep rooted feelings of inadequacy, mostly unconsciously, your brain is just looking for reasons to believe “Oh, you don’t deserve this.”

David Naylor: Right. Catherine, my daughter was home for the weekend from college, so she and I went out to breakfast yesterday and we’re sitting there, we’re talking. we were actually talking about  somebody that we know in common-  I’ll keep it kind of ambiguous, so it’s not obvious too-  and how this person had  grown up in a family dynamic where there was a more favorite child and they weren’t the more favorite child.

Sean Johnson: OK.

David Naylor:  And so this person kind of grew up in the shadow of a sibling where there was the “I’ve never really been able to measure up” type of a thing. She (Catherine) is a psychology undergraduate major, so she’s had a wealth of classes and things, so it creates some kind of interesting conversations. So we were sitting there and we were talking about the kind of the scars that we all grew up with. Very few people I’ve ever met have had a perfect upbringing where they had perfect parents and all of those kinds of things.

And every child, for whatever the issues that were in their home, they think it’s a direct reflection of them. For some reason there was something they did or something they weren’t, or something like this person we were talking about at breakfast, when in reality, the way their parents treated them largely had to do with their parents own dysfunction and in no way was a reflection of them.

Sean Johnson:  But that’s not how you categorize it or catalog it in your mind.

David Naylor:  So, that’s why so many people, because they don’t frame things the right way in their own thought process,  they think that the way they were treated was more of a reflection of them when in reality it was this reflection of their parents’ dysfunction.

Sean Johnson: Yeah, sure.

David Naylor: So many people grow up with that sense of inadequacy or there’s some missing piece there that exists for them and whether it’s being able to frame those things constructively, and to be perfectly candid- I had some of that same dynamic in my upbringing and it took me years to get past the framing that I had created in my own mind around things. You’re in the formative stages as a child, and you’re trying to put pieces together that psychologically you’re not equipped to be able to put together just yet.

I think a lot of people never put them together. I was fortunate to have people help me to do that.  And I mean, literally, I remember battling for years and  it creating difficult dynamics in relationships and things like that.

I was in my thirties and I remember to this day, I remember the moment when it was kind of like a light switch flipped in my brain. And suddenly, because of the help from others, I was able to reconcile things in my own mind and realize that those influences when I was growing up, it wasn’t my fault. It was the ripple of a dynamics that my parents dealt with. In that, the incredible catharsis that came from that was a) being able to find forgiveness , so that the anger and the resentment and all of those negative emotions that you carry you’re-

Sean Johnson: –not grasping onto-

David Naylor: Right. Now all of a sudden it’s like, wow, I don’t need to carry that baggage?

Sean Johnson: I think you don’t realize how heavy it is until you put it down.

David Naylor: Not at all. It really ripples in so many aspects of your life. And the crazy thing was, for me, it rippled in my relationship with my children, or rippled in my relationship with my wife.

So you really do see the cascading effect of all of that. And, so when you’re finally able to reframe that and get a more constructive perspective, you’re able to change the way you look at yourself.

You’re able to change the way you look at that other person, you’re able to forgive. You’re able to forgive yourself in a different way, you’re able to forgive them in a different way. And, and so you’re right, for me, it was literally like, its hard to even put into words the significance of the shift in my mind.

Sean Johnson: Yeah, sure. And I think you said another thing, which I think is totally true. I know it has been for me that a lot of those things are so deep rooted that you need another perspective to get- cause you’re so in your own head- that when things are that deep rooted -even having been developed or coached and mentored to know what those things are, you still need an outside perspective to really help you get through that. And that’s I know that’s true for me, and you said for you too.  How did people help you through that?

David Naylor:

It’s a great question and I wish I could give you an, A, B and C answer. I think part of the challenge with being able to give a definitive answer on that is that…you said something a moment ago, and our assumptions, those beliefs that we hold, they are our primary and only referencing point. And so that’s why it’s so hard for us to be able to see beyond that because our mind doesn’t want to see beyond that cause because that is the referencing point of, of everything for you.

Sean Johnson:  Yeah, that’s the sense of stability.

David Naylor: Exactly. And so I think the way it happened was through a series of conversations where people helped me to challenge those assumptions, and there was a moment for me where it was like a watershed moment where the water came over the dam, but I think it was a series of conversations that got me to that point.

It wasn’t one conversation. It was a series of challenging those assumptions so all of a sudden that dam broke, and then it was like, “oh, wow.” Then all of a sudden it was literally like moving from black to moving to white, it was that big of a shift. But I don’t think it all came because of one singular conversation.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. It was kind of chipped away at those walls over time. That makes sense. So all right. So that’s judging ourselves. How about judging others? Along similar lines , why do we judge others?

David Naylor: Well, I mean, if you think about it at a fundamental level, I think we judge people for a couple of reasons. We judge others because it helps us to feel better about ourselves.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. Cause there’s a sense of superiority.

David Naylor: Right. So we do that, you see it in the media. The media loves to build people up and then knock them back down. So I think to a large degree, the reason that we judge others is that it makes us feel better about ourselves or makes us feel less inferior.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. So I guess it kind of does come from a similar place, that feeling of inadequacy. If you see somebody else doing great things, it doesn’t make you feel good about too good about yourself, I guess.

David Naylor: Right. And somehow they’re able to accomplish something that, for whatever reason, we perceive we can’t accomplish.

So there must be some reason they are, because they’re doing something elicit, they’re doing something criminal. They cheated in some way, or they had they had an edge. They were somebody’s favorite. So we look for the rationales, why others can and we can’t, because then we can sit back and go, well, if I had that advantage, then..

Sean Johnson: Yeah. But it seems like so much of this boils down to ,when we are judging other people, so much of it boils down to a confidence problem.

David Naylor: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Sean Johnson: That’s it. And that seems to be the root of judgment. Yeah. So much of it. So why do we, and that kind of goes along to why we fear others. Cause I think that’s another thing that particularly now, but I think this has always been true, is we have this deep-rooted fear in being judged.

Not only are we judging ourselves, we’re judging other people, but we don’t want people to judge us. I gotta imagine it’s that same sense of lack of self-worth.

David Naylor: Absolutely. We might’ve talked about this in one of our other conversations but I remember years ago reading about that study that they had done in Reader’s Digest where they asked people what their number one fear was and people came back and they said public speaking was number one, and dying was number two. And you ask yourself, “how in the world does public speaking beat out dying? I mean, how can it be better to die than it is to stand in front of a group and do a speech?”

But yeah, you ask yourself “what happens when somebody is up there in front of a group?” Well, now all of a sudden you’ve got 20, 30, 40, 50 a hundred people potentially judging you.  And “Oh, they screwed up that sentence,” or, “Oh, look, they’re nervous,” or, “Oh, look, they’re sweating,” or, “Oh, look,”?

So I think that tells us a lot about how strong that fear of judgment is in us. In the book “Solve for Happy” that you and I were talking about-

Sean Johnson: Yeah, that’s one of my favorites that I’ve read in a long time.

David Naylor: Michelle’s reading it right now. I gave it to her.

Sean Johnson: I gave it to my mom.

David Naylor:  Yeah, there you go. And it’s funny because Michelle’s one of these people where she’ll take a year to read a book, right? She’ll read like, two sentences and two pages and she’ll get onto something else.

So this book she picked up about a week ago, and I’m like, literally watching her like, everyday she’s reading which is really unusual. He talks about judgment in the book and I loved how he framed it up because he said, “most people are so wrapped up in judging themselves that they really don’t have the mental energy to be judging us.” Yeah. They’re caught up in their own psychosis. But nonetheless, so many people are so concerned about that side of things.

And it was interesting, I know from a public speaking perspective, I remember years ago, a mentor telling me that when you really dial it in, in terms of being able to connect with groups, is when you can totally let go of that sense of yourself, that sense of being judged or being evaluated and just be free and be yourself in front of a group of people.

And it’s liberating when you get to that point where you just absolutely let go of that sense of self and “it doesn’t matter what they think of me”, what matters is that the message connects.

Sean Johnson: Well, yeah, and I think so much of it is we seem to be seeking this sense of validation from everybody else  and I think that maybe that’s a big part of this fear of being judged is you’re looking to all these other people for validation. And that’s your problem right there.

David Naylor: Right. So why do we feel this compulsive need to look outside of ourselves for that?

Why is it that we can’t look at ourselves in the mirror and say “I’m enough?” “I’m good enough.” Not that we’re perfect or that we can’t be better, but why can’t we be happy with   who we are today and what we’ve become today and more importantly even what we’re working on becoming tomorrow?

Sean Johnson: Yeah. And I think it’s a different type of confidence where I think that the traditional people think traditionally confidence is almost like cocky to an extent, like at the extreme , where it’s “I think that I’m better than everybody else”  when I think what it really is, is that it doesn’t really matter what everybody else thinks.

David Naylor: Well, and it’s funny you say that because I totally agree. I mean, if you look at what people juxtapose with confidence, whether it’s arrogance or concede or egotistical or the, “know it all” attitudes that people have those  are all the manifestations or the force field that people who struggle from an esteem standpoint use. They just kind of hide behind those things. And conversely, when you, when you truly meet people who are secure in themselves, you’re right, they don’t look for that external validation. They tend to be very humble people.

Sean Johnson: Yeah.

David Naylor: Because they feel internally okay about who they are.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. There’s this incredible sense of peace about them. Like they’re just totally cool. Totally fine with “whatever you’re thinking about me is irrelevant”, right?  “That’s your business, not mine.”

David Naylor: I remember when my daughter Catherine was probably maybe seven or eight years old and  it’s funny, she actually just reminded me of this story. She was getting picked on, on the bus by these other girls.

And so she would come home from school and she’s crying and she’s all upset. And these girls were making fun of her and all of those kinds of things. And as a dad, you hate seeing your kid get bullied. I remember, she and I were sitting and talking one night and I said to her, “Honey, tomorrow if those girls pick on you, and they, they probably will,  I just want you to look at them and I want you to say this: I just want you to look, very nicely, and just say, ‘I’m sorry. Did I allow you to think that your opinion matters? Because it really doesn’t.’”

And I said to her, “Honey, the only opinions that matter are yours and the people who really, truly love you. Nobody else’s opinion makes any difference. Did those girls really, truly love you?”

And she’s like, “Well, no, daddy,” and I go, “Then their opinion doesn’t matter.” And I reminded her of that that story when I walked her down to the bus the next day. And at the end of the day, she came home and she was kind of laughing.

She goes, “Daddy, I told the girls what you said,” and I said, “What did they do?” And she goes, “They left me alone.” I said, “There you go.” So now she’s in college and when she left for school this year, she wrote letters to Michelle and myself, and left them on our pillows.

So she was kind of going back and thanking us for these like little moments from her childhood. And that was one of the things she said in her letter to me. She said, “Thank you for teaching me whose opinion matters.”

Sean Johnson: That’s very cool.

David Naylor:  It was one of those moments where I as a dad I kind of lean back and go, “She was paying attention?” You’re never quite sure about those things.

Sean Johnson: That’s very cool. . All right. One other thing I wanted to touch on that we kind of mentioned in the beginning was social media. I wanted to talk about what role social media and kind of this environment that we’re in plays in judgment.

David Naylor: Do you think social media has made it better or worse?

Sean Johnson: So much worse.  From both perspectives, because it’s made judging yourself worse because now you’re seeing more of the, like we talked about before, the red carpet moments of everybody else’s life and you’re judging yourself against those.  Then it gives people the platform to kind of judge other people without the repercussions… you don’t have to say it to their face anymore.

David Naylor: Yeah. So you can hide.

Sean Johnson:  Yeah. You can do it anonymously or even if you’re doing it in your own name, you’re doing it from your bedroom or something. You’re not looking this person in the eye and saying it.

David Naylor: Right.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. There’s nothing that’s going to happen.

David Naylor: Yeah. It’s interesting. And I wholeheartedly agree. And your generation has much more grown up in with social media than certainly mine did.  So I kind of look at myself on the periphery of it and haven’t been, for whatever reason, kind of fully immersed. But I find it curious how that compulsive seeking of validation that social media has created and how people have that feeling of, “Oh, I I’ve got this beautiful plate of food in front of me and I gotta take a picture of it and post it,”  and “Let’s see how many likes I get.”

So again, we’ve taken the concept of external validation, and we’ve just exploded it now across a network of people. So I think you’re absolutely right. I think it sets a standard.

I think it sets a false standard in people’s minds of what other people’s lives look like and by comparison, how inadequate our life is. It also creates a means of seeking validation to make us feel better about the status of our lives.

Sean Johnson: I think it takes such a deep rooted psychological desire, and  it’s kind of created this battle and this war between what’s good and healthy for us. And for people in general and all of the data scientists and psychologists and engineers that are working for the Facebooks and the Instagrams and the Googles of the world. And we are just hopelessly outconned.

David Naylor: They are marketing to the most primordial aspect of who we are.

Sean Johnson: Yeah.

David Naylor: And while I choose to believe, maybe wrongfully, but I choose to believe that the intent is not an evil intent and that these organizations want to do well for the world. They want to do well for society. There’s also a profit motive. That is pulling them to “let’s keep triggering this in people”, because it allows us to capture their attention. If we can capture their attention, then we can market things.

Sean Johnson: The more eyeballs we capture, the more ads we sell. I think you’re right. Like, I don’t know that it’s an evil thing, but it’s just I think it’s as simple as look at their incentives. Look at their business model, right? If that’s your business model…

David Naylor: And how do you change that? I don’t know that you can. While you might have the best of intentions, you’re inherently pulled because this is how compensation works, this is how stock drives, this is how… so I think you’re, I think you’re 100% right.

Sean Johnson: Well, and there is some hope where you’re starting to see, I think for a lot of these companies, it’s also a short term versus long term lens.

When in the short term, the more eyeballs and all that kind of stuff, obviously the more profit and the higher the stock price and bigger the bonus.  But over the long term if you’re really damaging people to that extent, it can’t be good for your business.

David Naylor:  I think we don’t really know. I think that there’s an inherent lag in when something is kind of injected into society and then us really being able to quantify what was the impact of it. And likely it’ll be another 10, 20 years before we really have clarity of, “Hey, what did this really do?”

Sean Johnson: Yeah, for sure. So, we’ve been talking about judgement forming judgements.  I guess it’s probably relevant to ask, are we any good at this? How often are we actually right? Or is there even such thing as being right?

David Naylor: Yeah, no we suck at it.

Sean Johnson: Yeah.

David Naylor: Because our motives for it are fundamentally wrong. And so that just by virtue of the fact that the core motive behind it isn’t right, it’s going to skew the perception on that. It puts an inherent bias on things.

Sean Johnson: What do you mean, talk about that? What’s that core motive?

David Naylor:  The core motive comes back to a fundamental sense of inadequacy or insecurity of an individual. So the driving factor behind it is fundamentally flawed. And therefore, anything that I think that comes off it is going to be flawed because of that.

Sean Johnson: Yeah, sure.

David Naylor: So, I mean, you stop and the other thing to think about, here’s an interesting question. How often are your judgments positive versus negative?

Sean Johnson: Yeah, it’s got to be very heavily negative.

David Naylor:  And so if that judgment is a negative one….

Sean Johnson: Yeah, and I’m a relatively positive person, but even like, that’s just…

David Naylor: So you’re judging somebody else’s intent. You’re judging the, “why did they do this?” Or “why didn’t they respond to this email?” Those kinds of things. Or even something as simple as “why did that guy just cut me off and on the road?” Those kinds of things. And we tend to make that snap judgment and assume an ill intent or assume that there was there was something less than optimal in that situation when more than likely that’s wholly incorrect.

What I’ve found is that most people, as it relates, there inherently are evil people in the world.

Sean Johnson: Some people just suck right?

David Naylor: Yeah. They just have ill intent. But for the most part…

Sean Johnson: I think people are generally good.

David Naylor: Yeah, exactly. They do things for their own motives. Sometimes their motives ill affect others, but they don’t oftentimes do it with the intent of ill infecting others. And so it’s a great test to catch ourselves in those moments of judgment and really step back and ask ourselves, okay, well, if we’re making this assumption, can we prove it?

What if it’s the opposite? And how does taking that opposite perspective change the psychology? How does it change the emotions that were that we’re wrapping around that?

Sean Johnson: Yeah. No, totally. I think that’s one thing that when you do stop and think about it, cause I think you have to kind of catch your snap reaction and consciously override it, but that is one thing that I think that I’ve more come to realize the more I’ve gotten older, you realize more and more how much is everybody’s fighting their own battles. Everybody’s dealing with something. Everybody has got something going on.

They’re dealing with something themselves. They’re dealing with something with their family or dealing with something at work or whatever it is. And most of the time, and I think this is a big realization,  most of the time like you get caught off in traffic, or if somebody bumps into you on the sidewalk or whatever it is, 99.99,% of the time, it’s not about you, it’s about something else.

But we tend to make in our mind that “Oh, how dare they,” you attach this meaning to what they did to you, when you’re the last thing on their mind. You’re not that important.

David Naylor: You’re the center of your universe, not the center of theirs.

Sean Johnson: Exactly. Yeah. But I think you’re totally right. It’s a completely different psychology and physiology, and you’re just much less angry when you recognize that. I think you understand people so much better too.

David Naylor: Absolutely.  Well, and to that point, you think about empathy and how empathy plays into judgment.

Cause empathy to a large extent, it’s the antidote to judgment. It’s the antithesis of judging, being able to look at people with empathy or to look and say, “could there be another reason why they’re doing that?”

“What might that be? What could be going through their head that’s causing them to behave the way that they’re behaving?” And when you can when you can project yourself into somebody else’s thought process in that regard, it really begins to change your perspective of who they are and candidly of, or really how you can have a more positive interaction or make a more positive difference in their life.

Sean Johnson: Yeah, for sure. And it kind of struck me as you were saying that, that judgment and understanding are kind of mutually exclusive. I think when we’re judging, we’re judging somebody else. We’re judging ourselves. In order to judge people, we don’t have a level of understanding.

David Naylor: Exactly. Cause if you go back to the beginning of our conversation, judgment is a measure by our standard.

Sean Johnson: So it’s inherently just selfish.

David Naylor: Right. Exactly. So how in the world can you judge, but then look at something from somebody else’s standard?

Sean Johnson: You can’t.

David Naylor: Exactly. Yeah. There’s your mutual inclusivity.

Sean Johnson: I think that’s a helpful anecdote to think about, which is if we are judging somebody, we can’t possibly even be trying to understand them and if you understand somebody, you can’t judge them.

David Naylor:  Right.  Therein lies- if you look at the political situation that we’re in right now and the polarization that exists there and that’s exactly what we’re facing in our society is that nobody is trying to take the time to understand why other people are coming from the perspectives that they’re coming from, and they’re so convinced that that their perspective is right. It keeps us from being able to find a middle ground where everybody is happy with the outcome.

Sean Johnson: Right, nobody’s, trying to understand. No.

David Naylor: Yeah. They’re so caught up in “my perspective is right, and therefore yours must be wrong”. And therefore there is no middle ground.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. And my intent is good. Therefore, yours must be bad. Yeah. Oh boy. Maybe we should run for president, Dave.

David Naylor:  No. That’s gotta be, it’s a way underpaying job for the level of stress you have to take on.

Sean Johnson:  Yeah, absolutely. You’re not doing that one for the money.

David Naylor: It’s funny because I’ve often thought, in fact, I was having this conversation with somebody not too long ago, “why would anybody want to be the president?” I remember we were sitting and talking, and we came to the conclusion that there’s only two reasons why somebody would want to be the president.

They’re either an off the chart narcissist or they, they’re an off the chart altruist and they want to make a difference in terms of society and you really can’t tell which is which until they get out of office and then watch what they do.

Sean Johnson: That’s a good point.

David Naylor: If they continue to do good works and they continue to try to better society, then you know who they are. If they go on a speaking circuit and they’re getting $150,000 for speeches and all those kinds of things, there’s probably a little bit more of the narcissist mode.

Sean Johnson: Cause you’ve got to be insane to want to take that job.

David Naylor: Yeah, I don’t understand it all.

Sean Johnson: So we have this reactionary tendency to snap judge.  How do we break out of that? How do we break that habit? Cause it’s not good.

David Naylor: Oh yeah. I think I used to be a fairly judgmental person. By my own judgment. I’m not very judgement anymore. I’m going to try to

Sean Johnson:  I’m going to try to unpack that one.

David Naylor: There you go. But I think part of how you break that cycle is first, by changing your own perspective and really asking yourself what right do you have to judge anybody else? I mean, you don’t want other people to judge you, right? So, who gave you the right to judge others?

Sean Johnson:  Yeah, who put you on the pedestal?

David Naylor: Exactly. So, the reality is that none of us have that right. And even stepping back and asking ourselves are looking at the way that we’re judging ourselves, or what’s the standard by which we are judging ourselves?

Are we judging ourselves based upon some external standard that has been marketed and sold to us? Is that the litmus test of whether we’re good enough or worthy enough or human enough? Or is there something more true and more fundamental, do we need to change our own standard?  I can’t provide some universal litmus test here, but, what I found, at least for me, is that rather than judging ourselves based upon our mistakes or based upon the perceived shortcomings  that we have right now, or whatever those negative things may be, I think we’ve got to really be looking at ourselves and judging ourselves in terms of, “Did I learn something today? Did I in some way, shape or form become a better human being today?” I think that’s important.

“How did I handle the setbacks that I was thrown today?” Did I handle those in a positive, constructive manner where I carried something from them that’s going to make me stronger tomorrow? Or did I fall to victim ‘woe is me’ thinking or allow negative emotions to take over?

“Was I selfish and self-centered today and me-focused or can I look at the day and say, In some way, shape, or form I made the world a better place and it’s not some big Pollyanna, I cured cancer kinds of things.

But did I say hello to people? Did I smile?  Did I open the door for someone? Did I let somebody in, in traffic?”  I remember years ago listening to a Ken Blanchard tape, and in the tape he talked about “did you bring more love or hate into the world?”

So what are the standards by which we’re judging ourselves?  Were we grateful for where we are in life, in the things that we have?  Did we learn something today?

Did we positively handle our struggles? Did we bring love into the world? I’m not saying that those are the only things, but at least those are top of mind.  I think if we judge ourselves based upon those things, and if we can look at those four things even and say “you know what, I did okay,” then we’re probably focusing on the right things.

Sean Johnson: Well, I think we have this tendency to overthink everything. And a lot of times, I think with a lot of this kind of stuff, the answers are a lot simpler than we’re leading ourselves to believe.

And they’re simple, but not easy. But I think that’s a huge thing. And then the other thing I think too, is-

David Naylor: That is simple, but not easy.

Sean Johnson: What, why do we overthink?

David Naylor:  Why do we have to complicate things?  Why is it that we can’t look for the simple answer? Maybe it actually ties back to what we talked about before, that feeling of inadequacy. If it’s complicated, then-

Sean Johnson:  there’s an excuse for me to have not figured it out or done it. Yeah. That could definitely be it. Because I think there is this… we just make things so much more complicated than they need to be.

David Naylor: We perpetuate our own unhappiness.

Sean Johnson: Yeah, maybe that is that. Maybe we just cracked it there.

David Naylor:  I don’t know. Every now and then.

Sean Johnson:  I know for me, like, just thinking about where are you looking for validation?  I think it’s as simple as are you looking outside or are you looking inside?

And if you’re looking outside, all of these other things pop up and it gets a hell of a lot more complicated. But if you’re looking inside, everything becomes a lot simpler. It’s harder, and it can be harder to grapple with some of those things. But it becomes a lot simpler, I think.

David Naylor: Yeah. The only opinions that matter are yours and the people who truly love you.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. There you go.  All right. Well, you got any closing thoughts before we wrap up?  I think we’ve sensed the tie up.

David Naylor:  I think that if we can catch ourselves when we’re falling into that judgment, trap the habit and change it, so just notice when we’re sliding down that slippery slope and then really challenge those judgements. Do we 100% know that judgment is true?

Can we say that with 100% certainty? And what if it’s the complete opposite of the way that we’re looking at it? How does that make us feel?  And how does that change our expectation? How does it change the way that we were moving in the world or interacting in the world?

I think if we do that, I think we end up building better relationships. I think we end up connecting more with people around us.  And I think we ended up ultimately feeling a lot more fulfilled in who we are. And maybe we really start pursuing what success really is instead of what we’re told it is.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. I like that. And I think the one final thought, somebody said this to me recently but I think in terms of dealing with our own demons, I think it is true that you need that outside perspective.

I think one thing is, it’s okay to ask for help. I think so many people look at it as a weakness, and I know I have, for sure.

David Naylor: What’s the Emerson quote where “the vast majority of men live lives of quiet desperation?” It’s so true. I think that nobody has all the answers. And we’re psychologically incapable of challenging our own assumptions because we can’t see beyond them. That’s where having that second perspective, having that other person with a differing awareness to help, it’s made huge difference in my life. So, I absolutely agree. There’s no shame in being vulnerable.

Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think we’re social animals for a reason.

If we are psychologically incapable of seeing inside our own minds, there’s a reason we’re social animals and not living alone in the forest.

David Naylor: It’s the perpetuated survival of the species.  We were better hunters when we did it together than when we did it alone.

Sean Johnson:  Exactly. Alright, Dave. Well, this was a good one. Until next time, thanks for listening.

*Transcription edited for clarity

Shownotes

0:18- Intro

1:50- Why humans are conditioned to judge

7:17- Where does judgment show up today?

20:57- When things are deep rooted, different perspectives are key

21:30 How to help someone

23:44- Why do we judge others?

30:00- What confidence really is

38:58- The social media effect

42:36- How often are our judgments actually correct?

47:50- Empathy

49:02- Judgment and understanding

52:35- How do we break out of our initial snap judgment?

57:30- Concluding thoughts

We want to know what you think!

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Let us know in the comments below!

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