Thinking Yourself Happy: On Making Judgements vs. Being Judgemental

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Howard was nicknamed “the judge.” He hadn’t spoken to his older brother for three years as a result a minor incident. One of his coworkers said, “He brings to mind a kangaroo court in which the judge eagerly slams down the gavel and shouts ‘Guilty!’ And that’s why he’s excluded from all the social activities in the office.”


Judgemental, prejudiced and biased individuals make far~reaching pronouncements based on limited information. We all know such people. Their false and extreme generalizations give them away. “Anyone who uses curse words is obviously stupid and uneducated!” “Rock-and-roll fans don’t know the first thing about music!” “People who don’t regularly attend religious services are heathens!”

Most people realize that being judgemental is an unattractive trait. If you look around, you’ll find that most judgemental people are disliked and avoided. The answer to Mom’s reproach, “Why don’t you call your mother more often?” if truthful would probably be, “Because you’re judgemental and tend to pick on me, so it’s unpleasant to talk to you.” When people stop being judgemental, they often discover a level of personal happiness that had eluded them.

Yet none of us can help forming opinions of other people. So how does judgemental thinking differ from making judgements? Judgemental people state their views and observations in authoritative terms; they decree what is right and wrong, what should and should not be, what is good or bad. Making a simple judgement, however does not carry these ominous overtones. “Billy has poor table manners” is a judgement. The judgemental person would add something, such as “Therefore, he’s a slob who was raised by cavemen!”

We make judgements constantly. “He’s good-looking.” “She dresses well.” “He seems to lack a good sense of humor.” “She’s overweight.”

• In forming opinions or making judgements, there is no moral overtone, no further conclusions are drawn, no inferences are made about the person’s character, we just have the observation or the perception.

As soon as we add “therefore” to the observation, we are likely to be judgemental. “He talks very slowly,” is an observation, “therefore, he must be stupid” is a judgemental conclusion.

• If you look out for your own “therefores” you are less likely to sit in judgement over your fellow human beings, which will be all to the good for you and for them.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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