Psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach frequently tells this story: Imagine you are walking through the woods and you see a small dog. It looks cute and friendly. You approach and move to pet the dog. Suddenly it snarls and tries to bite you. The dog no longer seems cute and you feel fear and possibly anger.

Then, as the wind blows, the leaves on the ground are carried away and you see the dog has one of its legs caught in a trap. Now, you feel compassion for the dog. You know it became aggressive because it is in pain and is suffering.

What can we learn from this story? How can we become less judgmental?

Donโ€™t blame yourself.

We are instinctively hard-wired for survival.

When we see a dog (or a person) that might bite us (literally or metaphorically), of course we feel threatened.

We go into fight-flight-freeze mode, and are unable to see the myriad possible reasons for anotherโ€™s behavior.

We get tight and defensive. This is a normal first reaction.

The key is to pause before we act out of this mode.

Be mindful. Although judgment is a natural instinct, try to catch yourself before you speak, or send that nasty email and do any potential harm.

You canโ€™t get your words back. Pause. See if you can understand where the person may be coming from. Try to rephrase your critical internal thought into a positive one, or at least a neutral one.

After all, like that dog in the trap, we really donโ€™t know the reasons for someoneโ€™s behavior.

Depersonalize. When someone disagrees with us or somehow makes our life difficult, remember that itโ€™s typically not about us. It may be about their pain or struggle. Why not give others the benefit of the doubt? โ€œNever underestimate the pain of a person,” Will Smith said, “because in all honesty, everyone is struggling. Some people are better at hiding it than others.โ€

Look for basic goodness.

This takes practice, as our minds naturally scan for the negative, but if we try, we can almost always find something good about another person.

Repeat the mantra, โ€œJust like me.โ€ Remember, we are more alike than different.

When I feel critical of someone, I try to remind myself that the other person loves their family just like I do, and wants to be happy and free of suffering, just like I do.

Most important, that person makes mistakes, just like I do.

Reframe. When someone does something you donโ€™t like, perhaps think of it as they are simply solving a problem in a different way than you would.

Or maybe they have a different timetable than you do.

This may help you be more open-minded and accepting of their behavior.

The Dalai Lama says: โ€œPeople take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.โ€

Look at your own behavior.

Sometimes, we may be judging someone for something that we do ourselves, or have done.

For example, the next time you find yourself yelling at someone while youโ€™re driving, ask yourself, โ€œHave I ever driven poorly?โ€ Of course, we all have.

Educate yourself.

When people do things that are annoying, they may have a hidden disability. For example, some people with poor social skills may have Aspergerโ€™s syndrome.

So if someoneโ€™s invading your personal space (as someone with Aspergerโ€™s might), remember again, itโ€™s not about you. Albert Einstein said, โ€œEverybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.โ€

Give the person the benefit of the doubt.

Someone once told me, no one wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I’m going to be a jerk today.” Most of us do the best we can with the resources we have at the moment.

Feel good about you. Breneยด Brown says: โ€œIf I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because were using each other as a launching pad out of her own perceived deficiency.โ€

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11 thoughts on “What can we learn from this story? How can we become less judgmental?

  1. Avoid social pressure and venture through life with an open mind… ๐Ÿ™‚

    โ€œI would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.โ€ Gerry Spence

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    1. Your choices in life are for you to define. You were born to do the best you can . Judgement is only your opinion. Opinion is self proclaimed judgement. What is the term “open mind” mean. Looked it up. Judgement of others is not our place on Earth. We are just peoples on a beach trying to ” fit” somewhere. We are only vessels, full or empty. That’s our choice in this small time we are on this planet. Be humble be kind be charitable. Look for the best you can be to all living things on Earth. Amen

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      1. I agree.. but their are many in this world that do “judge” someone because they are different and that judgement is usually caused by some ideology…for instance, while I am not keen on labels, if I were say, in a store, and someone walked near me who were transgender, I would accept that person for what they believe, would you??… ๐Ÿ™‚

        โ€œI am free born and free bred, where I acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.โ€ โ€“ Theodore Roosevelt

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        1. If you read a previous blog concerning TAGGING or living in a box with a title good for them if that’s what they want. Then those that don’t tagged themselves and will not be tagged as anything, I say good for them. My world tells me ” we all bleed red blood” and that’s ok. But the one thing I do know, no one’s going to get out of this life ALIVE. The reason I wrote this is you asked me a personal question ( A great question ) I am no one I am not important. I don’t own an opinion, just a writer floating through your world sprinkling star dust everywhere showing the KINDNESS and love. ๐Ÿค—

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          1. Ahhhhhhh, but you are someone, you are important, you are unique, one of a kind and part of the puzzle called life, โ€œThe life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.โ€ Frederick Buechner

            I don’t believe most people “tag” themselves, but some “tag” others for a number of reasons rather than simply recognize and accept others for what they are and feel….

            Again, YOU are someone, YOU are important and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, especially YOU… ๐Ÿ™‚

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            1. My Father Told me they found me flying around th Orchard with wings of sliver wings with diamonds twinkling lights. He caught me and cut my wings off and that was where I came from, yes that fits you story Sir Brilliant blessings Amen ๐Ÿ˜‡

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              1. I don’t believe that your father would cut the wings off any creature, they’re still there, you haven’t been looking… ๐Ÿ™‚

                โ€œWe are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experienceโ€ Teilhard Chardin

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