We are all too familiar with the golden rule: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

What we are slightly more unfamiliar with, however, is why exactly we had something mean to say in the first place. Although we have encountered a great number of parables and fables that teach us not to judge before knowing, we often do not abide by these principles in our everyday lives.

In almost all our daily activities, it is impossible to refrain from prematurely judging others.

We make comments--either in our minds or aloud--about the people passing us on the escalator, about the man serving our food, or about the large crowd of tourists milling about on the street. It is human nature to arrive at premature conclusions about people before we know their stories or backgrounds; it's a vice we all have.

Yet, what we need to address is how this ruthless, incessant judgment in our stream of consciousness can actually be stopped.

How we do so is through empathy.

Until we've walked in another's shoes, we can't know or explain anything about them.

How can we judge a person for their relationship choices or disliking tomatoes or not going to college when we have no knowledge of who they actually are?

The most powerful relationships are built off respect, and we can only give adequate amounts of respect after fully hearing and understanding another's story. The vast majority of respectful and rational opinions about other human beings are formed after learning where these people have come from, what they have been through, and the struggles they have faced in order to get to where they are today.

Withholding judgment, however difficult it may be, is one of the most important steps in building long-lasting relationships with our peers.

So next time we find ourselves carelessly thinking negatively about someone we have just met, we should stop and question whether our opinions have been formed with enough background.

If we find that we really do have enough valid reason to justify our opinions, then we should simply follow the golden rule and keep them to ourselves.

Published on: Oct 23, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.