07/30/2014 06:03 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2014

How to Be Less Judgmental

Shelley Dennis via Getty Images

I will be the first to admit that I can be judgmental. We all have our preconceived notions about people based on the way they look or a first impression.

We rarely give people the benefit of the doubt. There have been several times when I caught myself being unnecessarily judgmental and had to quickly check my attitude. One day I was riding the subway when a young lady walked onto the crowded train car. She had a bunch of tattoos all over her back and her arms. When I saw her, my gut reaction was negative and I was flooded with thoughts like:

"Those are the ugliest tattoos I have ever seen."

"She looks completely ridiculous."

"She must not have real friends if they let her go through with that."

The list went on.Then in the midst of those negative thoughts a notion popped into my head. What if she was insecure about her body and used the tattoos to cover up her scars? What if she got them but now regrets the decision and is actually ashamed of them? On the contrary, perhaps she thinks it looks good. Maybe that is what she considers to be beautiful.

I realized that my concept of beauty could be vastly different from someone else's. I should be able to appreciate beauty in all its forms. She is not the only person I have seen with a large amount of tattoos, so obviously there are people that find that appealing.

At the end of the day, I do not know her life. Whatever the reason she decided to get those tattoos are her prerogative. Do not write people off because of their quirks, the color of their skin, their orientation, or whatever. Chances are you could be missing out on meeting someone great. Keep in mind that no one wants to be friends with a judgmental person anyway.

Steps to being less judgmental:

1. Nip it at the source. Everything starts with a seed -- a seed you plant in your own mind, or that is planted for you based on past experiences and how you were raised. It is up to you to uproot those negative thoughts and catch yourself when you feel them start to sprout up again. Ask yourself, could there be more to the person or the situation than I see?

2. Propose a counter thought, either a positive thought or a possible explanation. For example:

  • Negative thought: She looks absolutely ridiculous with those tattoos.
  • Counter thought: She may have tattoos to cover up her scars.

Practicing this will make you a more understanding person. By not assuming that your initial thought about something is truth, it allows you to consider potential alternatives that explain an appearance or behavior.

3. Be open-minded. This sounds simple but most of us are creatures of comfort. We do what comes naturally, and do not like to be in uncomfortable situations. Challenging your thought process can be uncomfortable and requires a certain amount of open mindedness. You need to be open to other perspectives besides your own.

The steps to being a less judgmental person are fairly simple. It will also lead you to being a more positive person. Instead of wasting time tearing people down in your head, why not use that mental energy for something positive? You will also become a more relatable and understanding person. Before you deem someone as a jerk for pushing past you on the subway perhaps consider they may have had a really tough day. Their feet could be hurting and perhaps they needed to get a seat. Unless you are a mind reader, you have no idea why people do the things they do. Therefore, you should give people the benefit of the doubt.

Alicia T. Glenn shares her best inspirational content, business ideas, and life hacks every week on her blog. Click here to check it out!