“Be curious, not judgmental”

This is a line I most recently heard in the great show, “Ted Lasso“. It occurred when a bet was made with Ted assuming that he was a novice at shooting darts without asking to see if he had played before. Of course, he had been playing for years and ultimately won the bet. It reminded me of the significance of finding out why people do what they do, and why they have become who they became. It is a way of seeking out reasons for things that happen outside of our own experiences and beliefs to see if there is another reason why something is what it is.

Judgments happen all around us. It is not uncommon to get judgmental when we find that others have been judging us. They haven’t tried to find out what’s going on within our experiences, or why we chose to do what we did. Alcoholics Anonymous has a terrific belief on this, which is “what other people think about us, feel about us, or how they judge us, is none of our damn business.“ That is 100% on the other person and one that we could simply leave alone. However, the judgments that we put on others are about us! When we judge someone without exploring reasons, that’s about us and not them.

How often do we judge someone for having a different political belief system than we do? We all like to think that we are accepting of others’ beliefs, but have you truly sat down and had a conversation with someone of an opposing political view to hear their reasoning? Did you make the effort to understand their point of view even if you disagree? How about with regards to religious differences? Many of us have heard that we should never discuss politics or religion. Why? Likely it is because of the judgments, and sometimes intolerance, that go with it rather than being curious as to why someone may believe that way.

In teaching Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, one of the key core skills is mindfulness. One of the most significant components of this is the practice of being non-judgmental. Many of us believe that judgments are innate or natural, which is why we do it so easily and thoughtlessly. However, the truth is that judgments are learned based on our experiences, which could include something we observed or something we were told, heard, or read. Judgments are often tied to fear, lack of curiosity, and even sometimes laziness. The fortunate part of something being learned can be unlearned.

How often do we judge OURSELVES without allowing for the explanation that there could have been a good reason why we chose what we chose, just because otherscommented or disagreed with our behavior? In many cases, if someone we care about was in the exact same situation, we would understand. But, if we choose the same behavior that others disapprove of, there must be something inherently wrong with us. I hope that this sounds as unreasonable to you, the reader, as it does to me.

I will support the idea that lessening our judgments can be difficult. We have years, if not decades, invested in a specific belief system. So, to back off this behavior pattern may take a while. However, it has been found that when you back off judging others, you worry a lot less about how others judge you. It is a very freeing feeling. But it is a feeling that takes some time to get to.

If you struggle with this and want to work toward lessening judgments and increasing curiosity, please feel free to reach out by phone or email.

Michael J Pollak, PCC-S, LICDC
Therapist and Dual Diagnosis IOP Director
The Behavioral Wellness Group