Resisting the Urge to Judge
While most of us consider ourselves fair people who try to get to know others before forming opinions about them, it still oftentimes isn’t easy to get rid of preconceived notions. We hear that the new lady in accounting is a graduate of a prestigious school or that the recent hire in the mailroom has five tattoos and our minds may immediately conjure up ideas about everything from how they will perform their jobs to how well they will fit in with office culture. Why do we do this?
“People are quick to judge others due to our brain being super efficient,” explains Dr. Kiran Mishra, a licensed clinical psychologist at Sugar Land Counseling in Texas. “We develop 'schemas' or cognitive frameworks through our experiences. These schemas allow us to draw conclusions quickly and easily, exerting a minimal amount of mental effort to evaluate a person or situation. They are adaptive and allow us to form quick impressions.”
Unfortunately, while this natural tendency might be efficient, it also can lead to biases and negative stereotyping that result in prejudice and discrimination. Luckily, the mighty brain can once again step in. Dr. Mishra notes that people can employ mindfulness or awareness to pay careful attention to the unique attributes of others. Consider keeping a log (for your eyes only) of initial impressions of people you meet. If a pattern emerges, such as continually judging someone who is younger as incompetent, you can make a concentrated effort to look for traits that dispel this notion.