In his classic book On Becoming a Person, psychologist Carl Rogers writes that judgment interferes with our ability to reach mutual understanding. And it’s that lack of two-way understanding that promotes and inflames conflict.
But how do you stop yourself from judging someone? For most of us, judgment comes as naturally as breathing.
The real issue is timing. It’s fine to judge when your mind is clear and your emotions are under control. But if you make a snap judgment that causes you to lash out and say things that you regret later, then you breed conflict.
In moments of stress, rein in your negative emotions because they can affect your judgment. It’s better to empathize with others than to dwell on what you feel and react to it.
This takes willpower. Challenge yourself to consider the other person’s perspective before you give yourself permission to arrive at your own conclusions or indulge in your own emotions.
Try this exercise. At the earliest sign of conflict, take a mental break from the conversation. Slowly drink a glass of water or look out the window to reflect.
In those seconds when you collect yourself, imagine how the other person sees the situation. As Rogers writes, “… see the expressed idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view, to sense how it feels to him, to achieve his frame of reference in regard to the thing he is talking about.”
Your willingness to empathize not only helps you respond with more thoughtfulness, but it also prevents you from reacting emotionally. It’s as if you’re placing your feelings on hold until you can understand someone else’s feelings.