We all like to believe that we judge people fairly. It is obviously frowned upon in our society to think that a person is discriminated against based on external factors. However, study after study seems to reiterate that we do make such judgements about people. The first impressions we get of people are very strong and it is often difficult for us to change our minds.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we usually draw a conclusion about a person from their looks. This then affects how we treat that person. This is obviously unfair and deserves our utmost attention to correct. We have to be honest with ourselves about how we discriminate and make a conscious effort to correct this bad behavior.
External factors that we so easily use to judge people.
It is very easy to jump to conclusions about people based strictly on how they look. We all do it even though we don’t like to admit it. Here are some ways that we judge people that seem unfair.
1. The color of a person’s skin.
It has been shown time and again that people favor others based on the color of their skin. One study found that light skinned blacks were more likely to be described as intelligent, attractive, or wealthy while darker skinned blacks were often labeled as poor, criminal or tough/aggressive. We often don’t even realize or acknowledge that we hold such biases.
2. A person’s weight.
We’ve probably all heard or seen the stories about skinny actresses dressing up in fat suits and finding that people blow them off because they appear obese. This test has been conducted many times. There truly is a weight bias in America. Overweight people are often seen as undisciplined, disorganized, and unattractive. They are discriminated against when competing for jobs, made fun of on television, and rejected by the trendy. Does a person’s weight really mean so much?
3. The clothes on a person’s back.
I remember feeling pressure to wear the right thing in high school and although the discrimination is much more subtle now, I think it still exists. Right or wrong, people judge you on the clothes you wear. We jump to conclusions about a person’s success, professionalism and even talent based on their wardrobe.
4. The age of a person.
America is growing older, but as a society we fail to respect our elders. I don’t know if it is because we all are in denial of growing older or what, but those above a certain age are often treated as though they don’t have a brain. Few people in the United States seem to give older folks credit for their wisdom and experience. Instead, we judge them harshly and chuckle behind their backs about their failings.
5. Whether a person is male or female.
It is true that in certain situations it pays to be one sex over the other. There are jobs where biases against one sex clearly exist. Women have long felt that men often get paid more to do the same work even at executive levels. At a more practical level, my wife realizes that she judges people based on their sex. She tells me she is more likely to open our front door if a visiting stranger is a woman versus a man. How does this bias spill over into other areas of judgement?
Is it possible to stop judging people on external factors?
Clearly it is difficult to discern when our personal biases are impacting our judgement. These biases are burned into our psyche at an early age. Our minds tend to quickly jump to conclusions about people with little real evidence.
However, discrimination of this type is not good for us. It robs us of opportunities to build relationships with healthy, loving, intelligent people. We have a choice and I believe it is possible for us to override these biases if we consciously choose to do so. It takes effort, but this is what separates humans from other animals. We can choose our behavior. We do not have to react without choice to our tendencies.
A better list to use to judge people.
Rather than relying on false first impressions, it is better to suppress this urge and delve deeper into more accurate indicators of a person’s true worth. Here is a better list of questions to consider when sizing up another person.
1. Are they a person of integrity?
A person’s actions should match their words. How do they act when they think no one is watching? If they don’t do the right thing, then you may want to avoid getting involved in a relationship. A person should be trustworthy. They should have a proven track record of honesty, authenticity and openness. They may look good on the outside, but if they lack integrity, then trouble is likely not far over the horizon.
2. How do they treat others close to them?
A person should demonstrate they care about other people in their life. You want to look at how they react when others are ill, in need, or have a problem. This is a great time to get a glimpse into what kind of heart the person has. Are they involved in anything bigger than themselves? Do they make any kind of meaningful contribution to the world for which they volunteer or earn very little? These kinds of actions will tell you something real about a person’s worth.
3. Where have they applied their skill and talent?
Look at what a person has actually done with their life to get an idea of who they really are. Where did they go to school? What did they study? What are they passionate about? Engage them in a conversation on a topic they enjoy. This will expose their intelligence. Listen for their sense of humor and wit. Find out what they consider their greatest accomplishment. These things will reveal a lot about a person.
A person is more than their outsides reveal.
It takes more time and effort to really get to know a person before judging them. I’m not sure if we can totally override our preconceptions, but I think we must try to quiet them while we delve deeper. The color of a person’s skin shouldn’t matter nor should their age, sex, weight, or what clothes they wear. There are many interesting, smart, and valuable people that don’t fit the mold that our society has created. It is up to us to decide how we will judge people.
How do you judge people?
Photo by danorth1