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“Be Curious, Not Judgmental.” – Walt Whitman

It was a beautiful, sunny day, the kind where a drink on the patio with a dear friend is needed. That’s exactly what I had planned to do. I pulled up to a spot where one of my dearest friends and I would meet for our monthly catch ups. It was somewhere that was central for both of us so we could maximize our time. Usually, we were coming from work, so we were both dressed in our business attire. Today happened to be a day off for him, so he rode his motorcycle over. He walked in, helmet in hand, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. We shared an embrace and headed out to the patio. His t-shirt displayed the beautiful full sleeve of tattoos on his arm. No biggie, right? I wish that were the case. One of the reasons we often chose to come here was because of the friendly service we received. The staff had started to recognize us as somewhat regulars. Today was very different. We had one of our usual servers, but she was not her usual friendly self. Her reaction to his tattoos was not something either of us had anticipated. She appeared somewhat disgusted by them. You could see her forming a new opinion of him, based on her beliefs, about who he is as a result of his tattoos and motorcycle helmet.

We are all human. I get it, and it is human nature to judge. We form judgments about a lot of things, and most often about other people. Once we make our judgment, we tend to gravitate towards those that we perceive as less threatening to our way of life. We spend our time surrounded by those with whom we have the most in common. We find comfort in others who think like us, behave like us, and perhaps look like us. Sometimes these judgments are subconscious, and sometimes we make them aloud. We are aware that we do it. In fact, it is the reason many people find themselves trying to impress others—we want to be judged in a positive light.

I wanted to share this story as an example of how that judgment can hold us back. There is something we can gain from every human encounter we have. If you are open to receiving it, everyone we meet can be our teacher. We can acknowledge that it is human nature to judge, now we need to realize that what we do with that judgment is a choice. Why not make the decision to dismiss it and give someone a chance? In different clothing, with no tattoos showing, that same server had many great conversations, laughs, and smiles with my friend. Nothing about him had changed. What changed was her perception of him.

Our judgments are often ego-driven to help us avoid discomfort. If we can embrace that discomfort for a moment, we open the door to self-reflection and we create an expanded sense of self-awareness. Our judgments of others are reflections of something in ourselves. Pause for a moment the next time you judge and think of that. Dismissing our initial judgment of someone can open the door to the possibility of learning from them, perhaps even forming a new relationship, or connection. Everyone we meet is our teacher. Be open to receiving the gifts that others have to offer you. Sure, it may not always be the comfortable choice. Comfort doesn’t lead to growth. When we push ourselves outside of comfort, that’s where growth happens. Let’s embrace others for who they are, and allow ourselves to grow!

“Have the humility to learn from those around you.” – John C. Maxwell



Transformational Coach | Change Catalyst | Marketing Strategist | Entrepreneurial Executive 

Alison Grimley is a Miltonian, a mom, a marketing executive, a community activist, and a Dale Carnegie-trained specialist in effective communication and human relations. Her column, Ask Alison, is Alison’s views, both personal and professional. It is her story, and it’s your story. Send Alison your questions, your comments, and your thoughts on living your life to the fullest. Alison’s columns are available weekly here at You can also find Alison’s style and fashion tips under Lifestyle–she is our BEST YOU advocate and guru.