a cartoon chalkboard that reads "welcome to the judgment free zone"
Adults, DBT

Creating a Judgment Free Zone

Judging, by definition, is taking in facts and digesting them through our own subjective lens and interpretation. This is where many painful emotions comes from, both in thinking about ourselves and in thinking about others. As humans, we already go through a lot of difficult situations. Our judgements only make it worse. A very effective way get through tough times is incorporating non-judgmentalness into the process. Only then can we begin to problem-solve. Here are some helpful tips on how become less judgmental get closer to a judgment free mind!

1. Observe judgmental thoughts and statements. 

Getting rid of judgmental thoughts all together can be very difficult! So learning just to spot them is the best way to begin. Awareness of judgments is important. Without awareness of the judgmental thought, we can’t control them. And then, judgments take the lead. Learn to observe your judgments by saying statements such as “a judgment thought came in my mind” or “ooh, that was a judgment.”

2- Count judgmental thoughts and statements. 

Take a few moments to do nothing but notice your thoughts. Everytime you notice a thought that is a judgment, tally a mark on a piece of paper. Or maybe give yourself a penny for every judgment thought and at the end of your practice, see how much money you have. This is a very effective way to gain more awareness of how often judgmental thoughts come to mind for you. 

3- Replace judgmental thoughts and statements with non-judgmental thoughts and statements. 

Whenever you notice a judging thought or statement, try to change the statement by using only facts. The key here is to only observe with your senses. Here is an example:

  1. Observe the judgmental thought: “I hate rainy days”. 
  2. Restate the facts: “On days that it rains, it is cold and cloudy.”
  3. Describe the consequences: “On rainy days, it is more likely I spend time inside and I am unable to do outdoor activities” 
  4. Describe your own feelings: “On rainy days, I feel more tired and less motivated to do my responsibilities. I prefer sunny days.”

See how we went from a strong judgment with lots of emotionality to a more neutral point that still honors your truth?!

4- Change your judgmental facial expressions, postures and voice tones. 

There are likely times when you have judgment thoughts but you don’t even say them aloud to avoid consequences. (A+ on the self restraint!) But it is also important to be aware of your expressions because sometimes expressions speak louder than words.

An example of this is when you are feeling shy and closed off, your voice is quiet and your posture is hunched over. This reinforces the judgment thoughts of “I don’t belong here”, even if you are trying to push that thought them away. Instead, Change your posture to a more upright position, shoulders down. Relax any tension you notice on your face, such as unclenching your jaw. Use an even and calm tone of voice when you are speaking. These tips help to change judgements that show in our body. In turn, it makes it easier to do all the other steps I just described.

5- Write out a nonjudgmental description of an event that prompted an emotion. 

scales of justice showing right vs wrong

Take a few moments to write out an event and leave out any judgments. Remember to just use facts and write out only what you see through your senses. If you can see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or smell it, you can describe it.

Once finished go back and cross out any judgements that come from interpretations of the event, rather than the event itself. Anytime you have statements that compare good vs bad, right vs wrong, or see “should”, “supposed-to” or “must” statements, cross them out. Go back and read what is only left. 

6- Practice Half-Smiling and or Willing Hands. 

These two DBT Distress Tolerance skills can be paired with the above steps. Here is how to use Half Smile and Willing Hands:


  1. Relax your face from the top of your head down to your chin and jaw. Let go of each facial muscle (forehead, eyes, and brows; cheeks, mouth, and tongue; teeth slightly apart). If you have difficulty, try tensing your facial muscles and then letting go. A tense smile is a grin. This is not the goal; this tells your brain you are hiding or masking your real feelings.
  2. Let both corners of your lips go up ever so slightly. Just enough so you can feel them. It is not necessary for others to see it. A half-smile is slightly upturned lips with a relaxed face.
  3. Try to adopt a serene facial expression. Remember, your face communicates to your brain; your body connects to your mind.

Willing Hands

picture of hands practicing the DBT skill called Willing hands
  1. Drop your arms down from your shoulders; keep them straight or bent slightly at the elbows. 
  2. With hands unclenched, turn your hands outward, with thumbs out to your sides, palms up, and fingers relaxed.
  3. Remember, your hands communicate to your brain; your body connects to your mind

This ALL takes substantial practice!

Non judgmentalness is a skill. nd all skills take a lot of time to practice! In order to incorporate less judging in your life, practice these steps multiple times a day. The more you Observe, Count, Replace, Change, Write, & Practice, the closer you’ll get to a judgment-free zone of your mind!

About The Author

Kristen Moyer, EMDR therapist

Kristen Moyer, LCPC is a licensed clinical professional counselor with Montgomery County Counseling Center in Maryland. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from West Chester University (PA) in 2010 and continued on to earn her Master’s Degree in Professional Clinical Counseling from La Salle University (PA) in 2014. In 2017, she began working with children and adolescents who struggle with education and their behavior in a school setting and has since evolved to working with adolescents and young adults in DBT settings. Kristen became EMDR trained in June of 2021. Kristen is currently accepting EMDR and DBT clients ages 17 and up for online therapy.

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