While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On training oneself not to judge others: I reached a point in my life when I realized my judging others caused me much more pain than it caused them, costing me relationships and injecting negative feelings into my life that didn’t need to be there.
But, like any bad habit, recognizing its costs and giving it up are two different things. Here are things I’ve learned:
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(1) I often judge others for “faults” I recognize in myself. Guess which trait I’m most judgmental of: judgmentalism!
(2) As hard a critic as I can be of others, I’m ten times harder on myself. For me, judgmentalism is the flip-side of perfectionism. When I am being gentle and loving toward myself, I am far more willing to take others’ quirks in stride.
(3) Judgment of others is a very convenient way to avoid dealing with my own stuff. Now when I feel judgment coming on, I try to check in with myself. How am I feeling right now? Is there a situation in my life that I’d rather not think about? Is there something I’m reluctant to take responsibility for? If I’m judging someone for something I think they’ve done to me, what part have I played in that interaction?
It’s hard, but I’m slowly shedding my old judgmental skin. It feels so much better to join the ranks of the perfectly imperfect.
On talking to a talkaholic: I’ve found it’s often helpful to pre-announce that I may have to go abruptly at a certain time or when dinner comes to a boil or someone arrives. Gives the other party fair warning and absolves you of the unilateral niceties that are not being observed by that other party (the subtly increasing ahems and noises that we make when we need to gently interrupt a monologue), e.g.,”l’d love to chat but I’m afraid dinner will be in 15 minutes … let’s talk until then,” and then do for that chunk of time. Then announce that, as you mentioned, “Oops, the kids just walked in and gotta go, love you, bye!”
On making choices to be strong: I grew up in a family with domestic violence and was involved in potentially abusive relationships myself. How did I overcome? I refused to be isolated. When a partner took my cash without my knowledge, I found the house still had a door and my feet could take me quite a distance. I learned to defend myself by taking martial arts classes. They were extremely fun, high-intensity classes that resulted in a camaraderie that was like having a supportive family, and they taught me how to defend myself.
But I think the biggest, most important thing I did was to get educated in a field that ensured my financial security. This not only guaranteed I would not be dependent on anyone, it brought a boost to my self-esteem that helped me overcome the cycle more than anything else ever could.
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Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.