How To Be Less Judgmental: 19 Tips That Really Work

Disclosure: this page may contain affiliate links to select partners. We receive a commission should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on them. Read our affiliate disclosure.

When we think of a judgmental person, we normally think of someone else.

We think of that neighbor who is always talking about “those” people. That relative who is quick to criticize other people’s lifestyle choices. The religious person constantly in your face talking about how you’re not living right.

Rarely do we think about ourselves.

But the truth is we are all judgmental.

We pass judgments, good or bad, all the time.

When we meet someone new, we make assumptions about who they are based on the first things we notice about them. We assume someone with a particular background, ethnicity, or interest must be this way or that because that’s how “those people” are. We conclude that someone who did {insert action} must be {insert conclusion}. 

If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like prejudice, you’d be right. A judgmental mindset and a prejudiced one are different sides of the same coin. Trying to distinguish between the two is a bit like trying to split hairs. 

Both mindsets involve making a snap judgment about someone or a group of people based on very little information or personal interaction. Oftentimes, we end up treating someone differently based on those judgments or assumptions.

These preconceived assumptions damage relationships and stop us from expanding our social circle in new and exciting ways.

If you want to learn how to be less judgmental because you are worried you’re sliding down the slippery slope into prejudice, keep reading to find out how you can change your mindset. 

The Psychology Of A Judgmental Mindset

Being judgmental is part of human nature. It’s how our brains work. 

Before civilization was a thing, we lived in precarious times. Danger and predators were all around us. As weak, vulnerable humans, we had to make quick decisions about people and situations to survive.

We had to decide fast if another person was trustworthy or if we were in danger. Making quick judgments was necessary for our survival.

Sometimes, it still is. For example, let’s say you’re walking home late at night and you turn onto a dark road. The only source of light is a dim street light up ahead. After a few steps, you see a tall figure walking toward you.

You need to judge quickly if the figure is a threat and whether you’re in danger. If you make the wrong decision, you could end up the victim of a violent crime or grossly offending someone walking along, minding their own business. 

Thankfully, we don’t often encounter such scenarios. And to a large extent, we no longer live in such volatile situations as we did pre-civilization.

But that hasn’t stopped our brains from making quick, snap decisions about other people. 

Our assumptions and judgments don’t protect us from anything now. Instead, they keep us divided and fearful of people we don’t know. 

Why Am I So Judgmental?

Besides being part of our brains’ defense mechanisms, there are further reasons why we judge others. One is our triggers.

A trigger is any kind of sensory reminder of a traumatic event. It could be a sound, sight, smell, physical sensation, or even a time of day or season that brings to mind the symptoms of a traumatic event. 

Our minds deal with a ton of information every second of every day. Managing that amount of information is a hard task. As a shortcut, our brain looks for patterns. If we’ve experienced trauma, our brain files it away as a pattern. Sort of like, “if this (insert event) happens, then you’ll do this (insert protective measure).”

When we’re in a situation in the present that is similar to the traumatic event from the past, our brains cause us to act in a manner that appears disproportionate to the now.

For example, if our first teenage romance ended because of cheating, we may react with jealously when our current partner has a platonic relationship with someone we see as a threat. If our son or daughter dates someone from the same ethnic group or background as our cheating ex, we may conclude that this completely unrelated person will end up cheating on our child.

Another reason for our judgments is our feelings of insecurity or low self-esteem. If we have low self-esteem or self-confidence, we may make negative assumptions about other people to make ourselves feel superior.

For example, if we’ve recently put on a lot of weight and are struggling to lose it, we may jump to the assumption that our friend, who recently lost weight, has an eating disorder. Because why else would she have “suddenly” lost all that weight? And so quickly, too?

Accusing her of having an eating disorder makes us feel better about our inability to get rid of our excess weight. Not to mention, it allows us to avoid dealing with any emotional or health issues we may have surrounding food, which is stopping us from losing weight.

We can pretend to be concerned about our poor “anorexic” friend while ignoring our feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and jealousy.

A judgmental mindset allows us to avoid doing inner work that helps us heal past trauma or build up our self-confidence. It helps us mask our problems by projecting them onto someone else. 

The Impact Of A Judgmental Mindset

Let’s be frank, not many people like being around those who are judgmental.

And who can blame them? 

With no facts at all, they conclude on who a person is and what they are capable of doing. They make wild assumptions with little to no information. And they write off whole groups of people because of one incident or encounter they had with one person in the past.

Worse still, they’re never wrong. They never back down from their negative assumptions unless they are forced to due to a hugely embarrassing incident.

We know these types of people. Sadly, we are often these types of people.

Our judgments, assumptions, and criticisms have caused us to lose friends or romantic partners. We may have even suffered some sort of public embarrassment when we wrongly jumped to conclusions about someone. And now we look like the neighborhood Karen.


Our relationships suffer the biggest impact of our judgmental mindsets. Friends distance themselves from us (they are not responding to texts like before or are too busy to hang out).

We get information concerning our loved ones from a third party (they’ve stopped talking to us regularly or completely). Our closest relationships stop sharing their deep thoughts and fears with us (your partner doesn’t talk to you anymore).

A judgmental mindset also impacts our physical health. When we judge others, we train our minds to find fault with others. Eventually, we turn our ability to criticize on ourselves. Because if we hold other people to impossibly high standards, it won’t take us long to realize we don’t meet those same standards. Our inner critic then starts to rip us apart.

This can lead to an increase in stress. High stress levels weaken our immune systems and have been linked to a variety of health conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, and depression

How To Be Less Judgmental

Being judgmental has probably cost you a lot already. You’ve seen how it affects the people around you. Maybe you’ve even messed up a few relationships too as a result. 

You’re now ready to make a change. Below are tips you can use to stop being judgmental toward others (tips 1-9), yourself (tips 10-12), and in your relationships (tips 13-19):

1. Develop self-awareness.

Observe your thoughts. Recognize when you’re being judgmental. 

Initially, it might be a little hard to see when you’re making assumptions about someone. You’ve been doing it for a long time, so jumping to conclusions is going to come naturally to you.

But if you pay attention to your thoughts about another person, you’ll be able to catch yourself when you’re doing it. 

When you catch yourself being judgmental, note the frame of mind you’re in. Are you under pressure? Perhaps you’re around a certain group of critical friends or family members. Are you feeling ill, hungry, or generally out of sorts? 

In developing self-awareness, you’re trying to look for patterns. What situations, people, or in what environment are you more prone to judging others? These factors play a role in your judgmental attitude.

Once you see that you are more critical and judgmental under certain circumstances, you can take steps to cope with or avoid those situations. 

2. Examine yourself: Why do you feel the need to judge?

It’s time for some introspection. You need to be honest with yourself and unwrap why you feel the need to judge other people.

Yes, your colleague may dress provocatively (which is open to interpretation), but that’s a matter for the HR department to deal with. It has nothing to do with you or your deliverables. So why does it bother you so much?

Could it be that the way she dresses makes you feel insecure about the way you look? Do you secretly wish you could wear some of the things she wears? Dig deep to find the reasons behind your assumptions.

When you’ve drilled down to the underlying issue, deal with it.

3. What triggers your judgmental mindset?

You’re meeting someone for the very first time. And you find out that they attended a prestigious university, one you gained admission to but couldn’t attend because it was just too expensive. So you assume the person you’ve just met is a trust fund baby who never had to struggle a day in their life.

Your partner has a lock code on their phone. It helps them feel more secure about the sensitive information they have on it. If their phone is ever stolen, they reason it’ll take the thieves a little longer to access the information. 

But you were cheated on in a former relationship, so you assume they’re locking their phone because they’re about to do the same. If they didn’t have anything to hide, they wouldn’t have a lock on it, or they’d give you the code and let you access it whenever you want.

Figure out what is triggering your assumptions. What trauma is the person or situation causing you to relive? Then work on healing that trauma.

By not dealing with the trauma, you are reliving it. Every time you’re triggered, you’re allowing the situation to win. You’re allowing the trauma to keep you a victim.

Whatever you’ve gone through has already taken so much from you. Deal with it so it can’t take anymore from you.

4. Expand your social circle.

Do all your friends look and think exactly the way you do? Did you all attend the same type of school? Grow up in similar ways? Have the same political views?

If your social circle looks essentially like different versions of you, get out and meet new people. Interact with a variety of people, and visit new places. Open yourself up to unique ideas.

Befriend people of other religions. Mingle with those who have a different socio-economic status. Interact with people who have opposing political views.

Discuss your differences. Talk about your similarities. Let them teach you about their way of life. Spend time with their families.

5. Be curious.

Don’t be shy about learning something new from the people you meet. People are usually pretty friendly when they meet someone curious about their culture, way of life, or thoughts on a subject. 

When you meet someone new, ask them about themselves. Listen and aim to learn something from them.

They just might open you up to a different perspective you never considered on a topic you were certain you knew.

Even if you don’t agree with their take on an issue, you can “agree to disagree.” At least you’ve learned why they feel the way they do. 

6. Step out of your comfort zone.

Your comfort zone is very familiar. It’s safe. You know what’s expected of you. There are no surprises.

But…it’s also boring. Everything is the same and there are no surprises.

So broaden your horizons. Do something you wouldn’t normally do.

Attend a cultural event you would never go to normally. Try a hobby that usually wouldn’t appeal to you.

Give it a try. You may end up liking it after all.

7. Travel. 

Mark Twain, an American author, once said:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Not only will traveling allow you to see exotic places, meet interesting people, and experience different cultures, but it will also help you overcome your narrow-minded views and prejudices. 

If you are struggling to overcome a judgmental attitude, maybe it’s time to book that trip you keep putting off.

Don’t let tight funds be an excuse to avoid trying it out. You could take a short trip to an unfamiliar town or a nearby city. See if there’s a world heritage site near you. If there is, check it out.

Learn about cultures and people that are different from you. 

8. What if you said it out loud?

How embarrassed would you feel if your thoughts were read out loud? Or your brain filter stopped working and you started saying every negative, judgmental thought that popped into your head? 

If you’re still on the fence about the severity of your judgmental attitude, or you are struggling to identify which thoughts are the “truth” and which are snap judgments, visualize yourself saying them out loud.

Imagine smiling and introducing yourself to a stranger one minute and then having verbal diarrhea where you spill out every negative thought you have about them the next second. Or during a meeting with your boss, you projectile vomit about how incompetent you think he is and that he only got the job because he’s married to the owner’s daughter.

If the idea of saying your thoughts out loud makes you feel a bit uncomfortable or even horrified, then work on changing them. Look for the good in others. 

9. Frame the criticisms into compliments.

Train your mind to see the good in people and situations by framing criticisms as compliments. When your boss messes up on a report and you roll your eyes at his/her incompetence, think about how well he makes presentations or manages such a large team. 

If your spouse has once again left dishes in the sink for you to wash, as you think about how lazy they are, also remember how they let you sleep in on Saturday mornings while they take care of the kids.

For every criticism or judgment you make about another person, think of a compliment.

Before long, your brain will skip right over the negative part and you’ll start seeing the positive aspects of people more clearly.

Now we move on to tips to help you be less judgmental about yourself…

10. The deep breathing/positive affirmation combo.

You’ve heard of deep breathing. You’ve also heard of positive affirmations. Perhaps you’ve tried one or the other in the past.

But have you tried the two at the same time?

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or just need to stop the negative thoughts running around in your head on repeat, try the following deep breathing-positive affirmation combo.

On the inhale say the “I am” part of your affirmation and on the exhale, say the rest of the affirmation. If you can, on the inhale count to 4, and as you exhale count to 8. This will be a bit tricky.

So, just make sure you’re taking deep breaths (all the way to your diaphragm) and your exhale is longer than your inhale.

This combo will not only help you calm down and focus, but it will also help silence your negative thoughts.

11. Write down your judgmental thoughts.

Write down the negative and judgmental thoughts you have about yourself in a journal or secure place.

Read them back to yourself. Sometimes this alone helps to jar us out of our negative head space. But don’t stop there. Reframe what you’ve written into something positive.

If it helps, pretend you didn’t write it about yourself. Pretend it was written by your best friend or your favorite person in the world about themselves.

Reframe what was written and tell yourself what you’d tell your best friend if they had such thoughts.

12. Work on your inner self.

We all have something we feel insecure or self-conscious about. No one is constantly a bundle of self-confidence. But how you feel about yourself is your responsibility.

It’s unfair to take out your insecurities and low self-esteem issues on other people.

Find a licensed therapist and work through your issues with self-confidence. Read books to learn more about dealing with different types of insecurities. Deal with your self-esteem issues.

No one likes working for a boss who overcompensates for his/her feelings of inadequacy by screaming at everyone. Being in a relationship with someone who is so insecure that they’re constantly making accusations of infidelity is mentally and emotionally draining. 

Work on your inner self so you don’t punish people for the trauma you suffered in the past.

And now for some tips to help you avoid judgmental behavior in relationships…

13. Don’t project your shortcomings onto others.

Is it possible that your judgments are coming out of your shortcomings or feelings of inadequacy? 

Perhaps you’re in a relationship with someone whose salary is far higher than yours. It honestly makes you feel uncomfortable that there’s such a huge gap in pay between the two of you. Instead of talking about it with your partner, you try to diminish their work accomplishments or criticize the industry they work in.

Do you have insecurities about your body and how you look? Your partner, on the other hand, really enjoys being fit. They watch what they eat and work out regularly. The effort they put in shows in their body. Rather than addressing your body issues, you’ve taken to calling your partner a “meat head,” insinuating they’re unintelligent or self-absorbed. 

Deal with your insecurities and stop projecting them onto your partner. 

14. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

It’s possible that your conclusions are completely right. You might be 100% correct in your assumptions. But you could also be absolutely wrong. 

Stop assuming things and give people the benefit of the doubt. Especially people you have a relationship with. 

Before you spiral into crazy land, stop and consider alternative conclusions. Could there be a reason for their behavior? Is there something you don’t know about the situation? Could you be misinterpreting anything?

When you don’t have all the facts, give people the benefit of doubt.

15. Put yourself in their shoes.

Sitting on your high horse to cast judgment down on other people is pretty easy. 

What’s difficult is putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Seeing the situation from a different perspective requires effort. 

Empathy is not an easy skill that comes naturally. Admitting you might be wrong or don’t have all the answers requires humility.

We have to work at putting ourselves in other people’s shoes.

We need to work at changing our perspective on what we consider facts.

When you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you’ll see things you never would have considered otherwise. You’ll have access to information that might change your perception 

16. Know that everyone is doing their best.

No one is perfect. We’ve made mistakes in the past. And we’re bound to make some more. But we’re doing the best we can with the resources, knowledge, and exposure we have.

But some of us did not have access to the resources and knowledge that would have allowed us to make better decisions. We did the best with what we had to work with.

It would be grossly unfair, if not elitist, for you to expect everyone to behave as you do when you come from a very privileged background.

Instead of judging people, teach them a better approach. Give them access to the resources you take for granted.

Until people learn a better way, they’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got. Remember that.

17. Separate the action from the person.

Sometimes, people do some really dumb stuff. They do things that are hurtful or make us angry. Does that mean they’re bad people? Usually not.

Separate a person’s actions from them. Your kid may have made a few mistakes while growing up, but that doesn’t mean he should now be known as the family mess up or disgrace. Or that he should always be viewed as the black sheep, no matter what he does in the future. 

A colleague mistakenly tanked a project at work. It was a huge mistake that cost the company money and people spent hours trying to fix it. Don’t label him the office idiot because of it. 

People are more than their mistakes or their actions.

18. Stop gossiping.

Rarely does anything good come from gossiping. Yet we still do it. That’s because sometimes it’s just so juicy, it’s hard to walk away.

But how many times have you listened to gossip only to find out it was a bunch of lies? How many times have you heard a “true story” about someone only to discover there was no truth to it at all?

Have you ever become friends with someone you were told was a total loser or nut job just to find out they were nothing like that? They were actually pretty cool.

That’s what gossiping does. It spreads lies about innocent people. It ruins reputations, sometimes without the victim knowing anything at all. 

Stop participating in gossip and give people a fair chance.

19. Pay 10 compliments a day.

Throughout your day, pay 10 compliments. They have to be sincere. They can either be different compliments or they can be the same but paid to different people. 

Look for things you appreciate about the people around you. What do they do for you that you normally overlook? Do they have qualities you admire? 

Let them know you appreciate them.

Being Less Judgmental

Being less judgmental is something we should all strive for. Just imagine what would happen if we were all less judgmental. The world would be filled with people who were free to be themselves. People would not be afraid to be authentic. We’d show empathy and compassion for both ourselves and others.

What a beautiful world that would be. 

The journey to that world starts with each of us working to be less judgmental.

You may also like: