You Judge Others by the Stories You Tell Yourself About Them

The story you tell yourself feels true even when it’s false.

We all judge. You help people be themselves when you judge them by who they are, not the story in your head.

On judgement and stories:

A friend of mine missed a meeting to go to a birthday party. Normally he’s a rock of reliability. Frankly, I was surprised and just a little disappointed.

I trust him. I let it go. I heard the rest of the story two weeks later.

My friend was invited to the birthday party to be part of a small group of mentors who had deeply impacted a former college student. I felt embarrassed that I had judged him.

I told myself a story and judged him by it.


The story you tell yourself about others is filled with assumptions. When you assume, you make an ass out of “u” and me.

The story you tell yourself about others is about their motives. Beware of sentences that begin with, “That’s because….”


You often impose your own fears, expectations, or suppositions on others. Fearful leaders assume threat, for example.

  1. Use track records to test assumptions. Are they often unreliable or are they a rock?
  2. Check your assumptions and confirm your concerns.
  3. Don’t ask questions that begin with “why”. A “why question” feels like an accusation. “Why did you miss the meeting?”
  4. Give people a chance to tell their story. “I missed you the other day.” (Pause)

Most people have good intentions. They want good for themselves and desire to do good for others. I bet you didn’t wake up thinking, “How can I be a jerk today?”

You probably have had a story based on negative assumptions, only to feel embarrassed when you heard the rest of the story.

How might leaders manage the stories they tell themselves about others?