I was recently told by someone close to me that I was being “judgmental” because I disagreed with something that someone was saying to me. The jist was that the person was merely sharing their opinion, and by challenging the opinion, and debating the point they had brought up, I was being judgmental, and thought I was better than they were, and by not accepting their viewpoint, I was being “closed minded”.
Now, we all have room to grow as people, and naturally I’m going to need to stop and take stock when stuff like this gets brought to my attention, because, hey, I’m FAR from perfect, and there can certainly be at least some truth from any criticism leveled against me. I’ve definitely been guilty of that charge on more than one occasion, and it’s something I’ve had to work on, and so that’s an accusation I take VERY seriously.
In this case, while the debate had gotten fairly heated (and that’s where at least some of blame could be laid at my feet), still, at no point were any names called, nor was anyone labeled, on either side. The issue being debated was not people involved, but with the opposing views on the topic being debated. It was nothing more than a difference of opinion on a hot button topic. Here’s the thing: it’s ok to disagree. It’s part of being human. We can disagree, even vehemently, with the viewpoint or opinion of someone and think no less of them as a person. We are not defined by our views – especially since views change. Disagreement should not be seen as judgement of a person unless actual judgement is evident.
Let’s give a hypothetical example:
Person A: “I think that broccoli is the best food in the world.”
Person B: “I think broccoli is disgusting, and can’t see how anyone can eat it.”
Person A: “Well, broccoli is healthy and good for you. I have the statistics that prove it.”
Person B: “I don’t care. I still think it’s gross, and I would never ever eat it in a million years.”
Simple disagreement , and no need for any one to get hurt or upset. However, it may be that Person A can’t believe that Person B thinks broccoli is disgusting. They might even feel so strongly about broccoli, and be so emotional invested in their opinion of broccoli, that when person B says it’s “disgusting” they feel like person B is actually saying they’re “disgusting”. But that perception is not based on anything Person B actually said. It’s something they’re projecting, based on their reaction to someone disagreeing with them.
Likewise, Person B might feel like Person A is saying that Person A is better than Person B because they eat that healthy broccoli. They might even think, “Oooh, I bet you think you’re so much better than me, and healthier than me, because you eat broccoli, and I don’t.” But, nothing of the kind was said. That’s just the meaning that Person B might project on Person A, based on their emotional reaction to the argument.
The truth is, neither person is correct, and both are projecting their emotional reaction onto the other person. In both examples people are attaching meaning and intent that was not evident, because they didn’t like their notions being challenged.
Both people may feel very strongly about their position about broccoli. They might even raise their voice a bit to express how strongly they feel about broccoli. Even so, it doesn’t mean that Person A is judging Person B for not eating broccoli, or that Person B is actually calling Person A disgusting. They just hate broccoli. No names have been called. No judgement present. It’s just a disagreement about a topic, in this case, the merits of broccoli.
As adults, we really should to be able to have discussions, and even arguments without taking everything personally. We should be open to having our views challenged. If we are, then one of two things will happen: 1) We’ll either come away stronger for having had our opinion challenged and being able to defend it, solidly or 2) We might actually see a different point of view, and our position may evolve a bit. Either way, whether we come away agreeing, or simple agreeing to disagree, we need to be able to challenge and question one another without it being automatically perceived as a personal attack or judgement of our character.
Another good, real-life example is people posting links to fact-finding sites on Facebook, or in emails. Over and over I’ve heard it characterized as everything from “judgmental” to “being the internet police” to “being a know-it-all” or “trying to make someone look ‘stupid’.”
Why might someone feel “judged” by someone posting a simple link? Well, because no one likes to be corrected in public. I get that. But the reality is, unless the person used judgmental, harsh words when posting the link, in all likelihood, any perceived judgement is in the mind of the person who was corrected. More than likely, they feel silly for having posted something without checking it, and/or embarrassed that someone corrected them, but instead of taking responsibility for the fact that they made a mistake, owning up to it, learning from it, and just taking down the link, they instead defensively project those emotions on the person who corrected them, even with absolutely no evidence that they were “judging” them or in any way, shape or form felt “superior” to or “smarter” than them.
To be fair, I am sure there are people who post links and are, in fact, thinking “Geez, what a moron!” BUT, chances are the person is not judging *you*, but the veracity of what you posted. They probably don’t feel smarter or better than you. They’re just trying to keep false information from spreading further. Maybe they’re trying to help you out like someone helped them out when they posted something that turned out to be a hoax. In essence, they’re actually trying to *keep* you from looking foolish, and keep your friends from looking foolish by passing along what was posted.
Posting incorrect information is what makes someone look foolish, not someone trying to set the record straight.
To be sure, *how* something is said can be a big part of it, and I am sure there are a lot of instances, maybe even the most recent one, where I could be a little more gentle in how I share my viewpoints. BUT, I also think that people need to take a breath and stop and think about whether their feeling judged is actually what happened, or is just their emotional reaction to not liking having their thoughts and opinions challenged.
Disagreement is not automatically equal to judgement. If you’re in a debate with someone, or have the misfortune of having a FactCheck.org or Snopes.com link posted to your wall, before you get upset, or irritated or even slightly annoyed ask yourself whether the person actually did it in a snarky, judgemental way, or if some of the angst you feel is merely your emotional reaction to being challenged. You may be able to avoid a lot of emotional turmoil, or at the very least harboring ill feelings toward someone unfairly.