As we wrap up our discussion of the Safe Conversations concept of talking without criticism, listening without judgment, and connecting beyond our differences, we’ll take a look at how they all fit together, with an emphasis on the final component.
Talking without criticism sets the stage for a safe conversation. Suggesting what you need rather than pointing out what the other person is doing wrong demonstrates your empathy and care for that person’s feelings. It opens the door for a safe dialogue.
Listening without judgment is the foundation of a safe conversation. By talking without criticism, you’ve let the other person know you’re safe to talk to; now you deepen the potential for connection by actively, intentionally listening to them, helping them feel heard and seen. This establishes the equitable, two-way nature of the conversation.
The final piece is both the purpose and the culmination of this effort: Connection. Connection, as we’ve said, is what humans desire most, it’s what we’re wired for. But you’ll notice we take it a step further to connecting beyond our differences.
What’s that all about?
The human brain is ultimately a complex and efficient self-preservation mechanism. It carries out each moment millions of subconscious, automatic functions that keep us alive; breathing, heartbeat, cell regeneration, etc. This includes scanning for danger in our environment, sensing anything that may pose a threat. For our ancient predecessors, “same” equaled “safe”; someone who looked different or held different views of the world may have represented a conquering faction bent on commandeering life-sustaining resources. They didn’t have the luxury of connecting with anyone outside their own, familiar communities.
Nowadays, we don’t face the same threats from warring factions as they did. Yet, we still have the same primal need to connect with our fellow humans. But our brains still carry the vestiges of that protective instinct, and the ancient equation “same = safe” prevails in our subconscious minds. To overcome that ancient instinct requires us to approach otherness from a new perspective. Today, instead of immediate threats to our survival, it is our insistence that others be just like us, our failure to differentiate ourselves as individuals, that keeps us fearful of the differences we see in others and impedes our ability to connect the way we long to.
We now recognize that the ONE thing we all have in common is that we are all DIFFERENT. This healthy differentiation allows us to see others as they truly are – not as threats, but as entities separate from ourselves whose needs, wants, and opinions are just as valid as our own.
By taking the mindful steps to talk without criticism, and listen without judgment, we give ourselves and our fellow humans the gratifying and essential gift of connecting beyond our differences.