Differences between being judgmental & good judgment

Written by alex saez
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Differences between being judgmental & good judgment
Good judgment is a useful tool to have, while bad judgment can impair decision-making and strain relationships. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

The only similarity between good judgment and being judgemental is that both terms contain the word "judgment." Other than that, they are polar opposites. Good judgment is beneficial, aiding in actions like decision-making. Inversely, being judgemental contains no benefit and often results in conflict. Knowing the differences between the two is important because it can lead to self-improvement and reduce destructive behaviour.

Good Judgment

Good judgment is also known as "discriminative thinking." It involves making an informed decision or observation. In order to exercise good judgment, you must base your assessment on personal observation without subjectively based criticism. For example, if a friend is doing drugs, you would discuss with him the risks of his actions without labelling him as "wrong" or "unintelligent." In other words, logically analyse the situation without using personal opinions.

Characteristics of Good Judgment

In order to apply good judgment, it is important to know what it entails. Objective thinking allows you to identify proper conduct without relying on morally based beliefs. In doing so, you can see what actions are counterproductive or inappropriate by logically assessing their results. For example, gossiping about a friend is clearly bad because it is hurtful and creates animosity. Inversely, avoiding gossip is good because it preserves your relationship with that individual. Additionally, good judgment allows you to evaluate yourself objectively, promotes kindness, love and respect, and helps you properly approach a situation.

Being Judgmental

Unlike good judgment, a judgemental attitude causes a person to reach conclusions based on personal bias and little to no factual evidence. As a result, the person may hold condescending attitudes and make unwarranted generalisation. An example of a judgemental statement is "Science fiction fans are all just nerds." Another component of judgemental thinking is speaking an unsubstantiated opinion with authority or assuming a superior moral stance. During disagreements, this style of thinking is not useful; in fact, it can often escalate the argument.

Making Judgments Versus Being Judgmental

While everyone forms opinions about issues, having an opinion does not necessarily lead to judgemental thinking. Making a judgment is about stating an observable fact without involving morality. An example would be "Bob is irresponsible." While this seems negative, if Bob is frequently late for work or failing school because of poor work ethic, then it is a true statement. However, if the statement is followed by an unprovable and strongly worded comment, such as "therefore, Bob is a loser who will never succeed," then the person has crossed the fine line between making a judgment and being judgemental. According psychology professor Dr. Arnold Lazarus, "as long as we add 'therefore' to the observation, we are likely to be judgemental."

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