How to stop judging others and be accepting
Admit it: there’s someone in your life who constantly annoys the ever-loving (insert bad word here) out of you. Worse, they’re someone you have to contend with on a frequent basis. Maybe you’ve got a tenuous relationship with your parents, or your boss is a foul son-of-a-something. Or maybe they’re someone you love very, very much — such as a romantic partner or sibling — but they just have that one trait that you can’t stand (I can hear it now: “My boyfriend is SO messy!”).
If that’s the case, you might be wondering how to stop judging others and be accepting of them. Clearly you can’t cut and run, so making peace is a priority. But how do you do that? How do you “let go” of a part of someone’s personality that constantly gets under your skin?
Follow along for some key tips on accepting others for who they are, instead of who you want them to be.
Why is it important to be accepting?
Before we tackle the thorny and difficult topic of acceptance, it’s important to know why accepting someone else as they are is so crucial. After all, shouldn’t you hold people accountable for their worst traits? And shouldn’t you motivate them to change their behavior so that you don’t keep running into arguments or disagreements with them?
Flat out, the answer is no. And I know that’s going to sound crazy, but it’s the truth. That’s because (if you haven’t already noticed) it’s VERY difficult to make other people change. In fact, it might just be impossible. Anyone who changes chooses to do so of their own volition, and not because someone else told them to shape up their act.
Think of it like getting water from a wall. Walls are great things, aren’t they? They’re sturdy, supportive, strong and keep the wind out. I love that about walls. But I’d never ask a wall to grab me a glass of water, would I? That’s because it’s not what a wall does.
People are kind of like walls that way. Some are organized, but unemotional. Others are extremely talkative, but hectic and unprepared. And still others are loving and caring, but have problems with money. The list could go on, but the point is that every individual is strong in certain areas, and weaker in others.
That’s true of you, too! You’re probably incredibly gifted at certain tasks and subjects, but you’re a little less competent in other parts of your life. Maybe you’re a top-notch Scrabble player or a fabulous coworker, but I’m banking on the fact that you’re not an Olympic-level athlete… and nobody’s expecting you to be.
That’s how we should be approaching others, too. We can’t expect them to be what they’re not. Doing so leads to internal dissatisfaction and ultimately robs us of our own peace. What’s worse is that whatever’s bothering you has probably become so ingrained at this point that it’s starting to become your excuse for misery.
Gosh, that sounds, awful, doesn’t it? None of us should be fixating on something that makes us miserable. Instead, the path toward inner peace lies in another direction: accepting others for who they are, and appreciating all the parts of them that we do or can enjoy.
That’s why it’s important to stop judging others and be accepting. But doing that is a lot easier to say than do. That’s why I’m going to give you some powerful tools to let go of other peoples’ less favorable traits — are you ready?
How to stop judging others and be accepting
1. Always remember your number one goal
What’s your number one goal in life? You might think it’s career success, creative satisfaction, or romantic love… but I’m about to rock your world a little bit, because it’s actually none of those things. Instead, those things are the byproduct of everyone’s true life goal: to be at peace with themselves and the larger world.
The goal isn’t to make the sale, receive praise or earn a bonus. The goal is to be calm, collected and happy. Certain things can lead you toward that sense of calm and happiness, but those things aren’t goals in and of themselves.
Once you remember that peace is your ultimate goal, it becomes easier to question your own motives for getting upset about someone else’s behavior. Think about it: how does ruminating on the failings of another person bring you closer to being happy? Simply put, it doesn’t. Once you understand that, you’ll start to reorient your worldview toward looking at the things that do bring you toward your goal, instead of those that don’t.
2. Think about all the things that don’t bother you
There are a million and one things in our daily lives that probably could bother us, but don’t. In fact, they’re so inconsequential to us that we don’t even register them in our minds, much less make a point to state our dissatisfaction with them.
Try this right now: look out your window. What’s the first thing you see? It might be a tree, a car, or the sidewalk. Whatever it is, hold onto that. Now, I want you to look at everything in between the window and what you saw. Chances are good there’s grass, or a parking space, or a flower growing in your yard… but you didn’t notice any of that, did you?
Try approaching people the same way. The things you don’t notice are the things you already accept as they are. They don’t bother you, because you understand that that’s the world as it is, instead of the world as you want it to be. And there are so many things in this world like that — things that we’re at peace with, and as such we don’t try to change them.
We don’t use those things as our reason for being miserable.
We’re not even conscious of them.
Your job now is to make a conscious decision to be at peace with who people are, as they are. You don’t have to adore or love the traits about them that previously bothered you, but it’s also no longer your job to carry the weight of judgment against them.
3. Look at the bigger picture of your relationship
Every time you notice that someone is failing you, does it build the relationship, or tear down the relationship? Easy answer: it lessens your bond with them, doesn’t it? If you actually want someone to change their ways, you can’t build distance between the two of you. Instead, you need to get closer.
So, your job is to hone your ability to appreciate what this “problem person” does right, and focus on that. Focus on what’s right about them, instead of what’s wrong about them, and find new things that maybe you haven’t noticed about them before. What are their best qualities? What do other people like about them?
This person that’s giving you trouble is made up of many things, and not just painful or difficult things. When you bring out the parts of others that you like, that expands your experience, and helps you recontextualize them in a way that’s conducive to a stronger relationship, instead of a weaker one.
The real irony is that appreciating for someone as they are will make someone far more prone to clean up their bad behavior.
4. Write your way toward acceptance
If you haven’t journaled before, this might be the perfect time to start. Journaling is a healthy way to not only vent about your struggles with acceptance, but it’s also a great tool for appreciating others as they are.
Try this now: grab your journal (I like e-journals, since they’re easier and don’t cramp up my hands) and start writing about all the things you’re grateful for. As you write, start thinking about the person you’re having trouble accepting, and begin making a list of the things you DO accept about them. These don’t even have to be things you like — just aspects of their personality that you accept.
For instance, you might not love it, but you can find a way to accept that your dad forgot about your birthday, because he’s just a forgetful person — he probably didn’t intentionally leave you hanging. Or maybe you can accept that while she can sometimes be an overbearing taskmaster, your boss is actually really good at making sure clients stay happy (which keeps you steadily employed).
See how it works? In other words, start up the appreciation train engine (and yes, if you’re curious, that IS the worst analogy I’ve ever concocted), and ride that locomotive as far as it takes you.
Of course, if you want help with any of this, that’s where people like me come in. We’re not only experts at journaling, but we’re also coaches trained in helping people re-tool their brains to appreciate all the good things in life, instead of what’s bothering them. Our goal is the same as yours: we want you to find peace, because that helps us find peace.
Whether you choose to start journaling with us or not, I hope you’ve gotten something out of this! I’m certainly no stranger to getting annoyed with other people, and it’s taken me a very long time to learn to accept others as they are, instead of as I want them to be. Despite that, I can confidently say that my life has improved immeasurably ever since I started rewiring my brain to love people for everything they are — their flaws, successes, highs and lows.