Where I Judge People

Judging others is a perfect recipe for storing poison in our heads. It harms no one else. I find it funny that we expect others to be either good or bad, although no one wakes up and promises that they are going to be a bad villain today. Just like us!

With limited information, we fill up the blanks with our own pens! Hence that judgement tells more about us than the other person.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater,you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean.

-Dave Barry

Having established the vice of judgement about a person’s intentions, actions and character, I do judge people whenever I meet them about only one aspect: their intellectual level. This is important for me because I get really excited to know and converse with knowledgeable people. I gauge this by listening to them and finding out a few indicators. Here is what gives me the hints.

  • How they form their opinions: How people form their opinions is relatively easy to judge. For example, when someone talks about a cause and effect, they are highly oversimplifying the situation through selective bias. Dropping out of school is good because this is what Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson did, ignoring many hundreds of thousands who also dropped out of school and achieved almost nothing. Person ABC is bad because s/he said XYZ. That phenomenon is true because this has happened. And so on. Listen to how they support a party, group or a way of thinking, and you will get a good idea of the depth of their thought process. According to Stephen Dubner,

    So if you’re an environmentalist, and you believe that one of the biggest tragedies of the last 100 years is people despoiling the environment, the minute you hear about an issue that kind of abuts the environment, whether it’s honey bee collapse or something having to do with air quality, your immediate moral position is, “Well, I know exactly what the cause of that is. It’s caused by people being stupid and careless and greedy” and so on.

    Now that may be true, but it also may not be true. Our point is, if you try to approach every problem with your moral compass, first and foremost, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. You’re going to exclude a lot of possible good solutions. You’re going to assume you know a lot of things, when in fact you don’t, and you’re not going to be a good partner in reaching a solution with other people who don’t happen to see the world the way you do.

  • The curse of probabilities: Unwise people do not understand the game of probabilities the universe is playing. One interesting concept Taleb derived from the writings of early 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is the Wittgenstein’s ruler that says:

    “Unless you have confidence in the ruler’s reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table, you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.”

    By generalizing a specific case and specifying a general case, a person displays inadequate knowledge of alternative sample paths and infinite possibilities related to subtle stuff.

  • Gray scale characterization: A person with less exposure sees the world in black and white. It’s either day or night, people are either good or bad, etc. And they cannot fathom the infinite gray scale all across this spectrum. So they are more sure of themselves than one should be. As Bertrand Russell brilliantly put it, “the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wise people so full of doubts.”
  • Expanding the knowledge: If you meet a person after an interval of several weeks, ask them which book/s they have read in this time. Most people would not have read any, and consequently would not have put any new wide experience from others into their minds hence limiting their own horizons. Simply put, reading books is almost the same as spending time with experienced and knowledgeable people, not a bad company to have!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *