How to stop being so judgmental

Nobody likes feeling judged. We don’t like other people feeling so high and mighty as to judge us. I bet you’re more judgmental than you realize. Here’s how to raise your awareness of it, reduce it, annoy people less, and share more about yourself.
I bet you don’t realize how judgmental you seem to others, even if you don’t intend it. Nor, I bet, do people making you feel judged realize how much they seem judgmental.
Why not? Because judgment is in our language. It doesn’t have to, but it often is. My exercise on avoiding judgmental words from a few months ago continues to surprise me as it makes me more aware of my own and others’ speech. I’m re-posting about the exercise because I keep getting reminded of its value.
To be precise, judging isn’t the issue. Judging is an internal thought process we all do. Our internal thoughts and beliefs don’t hurt or affect anyone except in how we communicate them and behave. Behavior and communication matter.
It’s amazing how much common everyday speech leads people to sound judgmental, even when they try not to. Then it’s amazing how many arguments and how much conflict result from it.
You can avoid nearly all of it by replacing judgment with statements of opinion.

How to avoid seeming judgmental

To experience it for yourself, try the exercise: For a week, replace the following judgmental words with non-judgmental ones: good, bad, right, wrong, better, worse, positive, negative, true, false. They all have synonyms you can avoid too, like terrible, awesome, great.
I’m not saying never to use them. I’m suggesting avoiding them for a week will reveal to you how much you and others communicate judgment without realizing it. I’m suggesting you’ll find the alternatives share more about yourself without provoking arguments. I’m suggesting you’ll learn about yourself.
I bet after the exercise you’ll find yourself using such words less and sharing more about yourself. I’d love to hear feedback from people who try it.


The following almost always replace inflammatory or antagonistic speech with statements about your beliefs and opinions. They promote sharing and learning about each other instead of putting people down.

  • You can replace good or bad with like or don’t like or explaining your reasons: “The movie was bad” becomes “I didn’t like the movie” or “I didn’t find the characters compelling.”
  • You can replace right or wrong with agreement or disagreement or explaining yourself: “You’re wrong” becomes “I disagree” or “I don’t think your arguments support your conclusions.”
  • You can omit statements or clauses about truth: “The truth is that Obama is President” becomes “Obama is President.”
  • You can omit statements or clauses about reality: “In the real world we have to work for a living” becomes “People have to work for a living.”
  • You can also change statements about truth and reality to statements about belief: “I believe everyone has to work for a living.”

After avoiding communicating judgmental words, avoid judgmental concepts. Avoid assuming everyone will agree on what you consider “balanced,” “practical,”  “pragmatic,” or “a fact”.
Edit (August 14, 2011): Continued this post tomorrow in More thoughts on being less judgmental.
Edit (August 15, 2011): I left out one of the main judgmental words: should (also its synonym, ought to). Telling someone what they should or shouldn’t do implies you are imposing your values on them and likely disregarding theirs — a great way to antagonize someone.

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