BY: T. Franklin Murphy | January 2018
Careless Judgements creates a biased view that further distorts our evaluations. Our biases are self-confirming.
He’s an idiot; so, I will treat him as one. She is lovely, I will treat her with admiring attention. When we label, we treat the labeled person in that context. Our actions confirm the judgment by supporting the biased condemnation. We also may correctly label, helping with decisions of safety and love. Our behavior and their subsequent reactions to praising or condescending tones create the dynamics of a relationship that confirms our confining assessments—the destructive dismantling or building of another’s character.
We seldom objectively observe—unknown biases invade and poison. With premature and inaccurate labels, we become part of a dysfunctional cycle. Our judgments self-confirm whether conducting a scientific experiment at the lab or evaluating the meaning of a conversation at home. We misjudge; the more categorical the thinking (good or bad), the greater the bias. While this speeds thinking, it narrows perceptions. People come in a million shades of grey, forcing them into tiny defined boxes is an injustice to complexity.
"We misjudge; the more categorical the thinking (good or bad), the greater the bias. While this speeds thinking, it narrows perceptions."
We must step back and open our minds to soften critical labels, looking for characteristics that don’t neatly fit the attached label. Our efforts to enlarge thinking will and challenge judgments will uncover previously hidden biases. We will discover error in our thoughts—deeply discomforting for some.
The work, although discomforting, is rewarding. Categorical thinking destroys relationships; by simplifying the complex mixture of good and bad, we vex communications with weighty and unjust conclusions. The partner we once saw as wonderful, at a flip of a switch, we label as awful when a few aspects of their character defy our definition of wonderful. Their simple displays of humanity spark extreme emotions, confirming felt injustices.
Through the smoke and mirrors of the mind, we become innocent victims of their chicanery. After labeled, the partner can do no right, and we treat them differently because we see them differently. Naturally, they begin to act differently because we treat them differently. A chain reaction has been set in motion that is difficult to stop. The label becomes the reality. The relationship changes dramatically, exposing the worst.
We stop this terrifying change by addressing the label, critically examining our judgments and accepting difference (see Differences). Our rigid dogma of right and wrong blinds compassionate explorations into differences in behaviors and priorities. Seeing the world in the wonderful and fearful shades of grey, opens the exciting realities of complexity, weakening security but strengthen our navigation skills to manage the foggy waters of the unknown.