Don’t judge a book by its cover

Judgement. We often don’t realise that we are doing it, but using our judgement to make informed decisons is an important part of our daily lives. Every day, we have countless decisions to make, so we use our experiences, knowledge and wisdom to make the best possible decisions or come to sensible conclusions. It’s a shortcut which saves a lot of time and energy in our increasingly busy days. We use our judgement to determine everything from our grocery shopping list to our interactions with others. It is with the latter, however, that judgement can often let us down. Badly. 

Judgement can be positive or negative. A positive judgement, when we apply it to other people, makes us more open towards them, and approach our interactions with them positively. This, in turn, can open the door to countless opportunities to network,  help each other and share knowledge or experiences. In this way, when we look upon somebody favourably the potential for mutual benefit is immense. Of course, you never approach another person with a view to what you may gain but it is in our nature to help others who we look upon favourably and connect with.

Not everyone is looked upon positively, though. Sometimes, whether intentionally or not, we judge other people negatively before we have even met them. People can be judged negatively for a multitude of reasons ranging from their job title to their lifestyle choices. Worse yet, some people are negatively judged simply because a friend, colleague or family member doesn’t approve of them. This is before there has been any actual interaction. When a person is judged negatively, a door is closed on them and opporrunities are lost.

I was on the receiving end of unfounded negative judgement recently. Looking to buy a house soon, I have taken on a second job in security and work on the occasional evening or weekend. During a recent shift, an employee from one of the larger companies mentioned in passing that he faced working through the night because of an urgent situation. This is because of some issues with an overseas client. While reluctant to divulge too much detail, what he described made me curious as it was what I deal with in a daily basis. In my normal role, I deal with similar situations countless times every day. So, I offered to help in any way I can during my break. Without asking as to how I could help, this young man simply looked me up and down and laughed before saying no. I told him that I have the knowledge and experience to help and am asking for nothing in return. I just fancied a bit of brain stimulation. He simply rolled his eyes and walked away. He looked at me and saw a security guard. Nothing more. Had he asked, I would’ve told him about my regular role and how I could help. His loss. I had tried. It was at this point that it hit me how it feels to be judged on sight and not on merit. I felt gutted, almost dirty, but soon picked myself back up as I am not embarassed about taking on extra work in order to take a step closer towards my goals. He lost out on an opportunity to solve a problem and save several hours of stress on a Friday night. 

Hours later, on a patrol, I saw the young man again. He offered a limp apology as to his behaviour earlier and I accepted. This time he asked why I had offered to help, so I explained what it is that I do in a professional capacity and that security was a second job to help with buying a house. I then explained that I couldn’t help now as i’d worked all day and then rushed to my second job, so was exhausted and going home, leaving him to try and solve his problem.

By judging me on my appearance, this young man robbed himself of an opportunity to get help in solving an urgent problem. Of course, I could’ve offered to help again later but this is the downside of treating others badly for no reason; they may simply be unable or unwilling to help you once the moment has passed. This was completely avoidable.

Exercising our judgement is an important part of daily life. It can steer us away from bad decisions or lead us towards good ones. However, we should set our judgement aside when we first meet another person. After all, everyone you meet has something to teach you, and there is the posibility of bringing value to each other’s lives. This won’t happen, though, if you insist on judging others before you have tried getting to know them. Give everyone a chance. Be openminded. Who knows where your next chance encounter with a stranger might lead?

7 thoughts on “Don’t judge a book by its cover

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