The other day we discussed the Safe Conversations concept of talking without criticism, listening without judgment, and connecting beyond our differences.  It seems pretty straightforward, and it is, but it’s so much more than a catchy tagline; it’s a new way of being in the world. It’s the elegantly simple process by which we achieve and share the one thing every human innately needs for a happy, fulfilling life: connection.

We, humans, are wired for connection; it’s in our DNA to find safe, meaningful connections with others in all types of relationships. Connection is not just for romantic couples or BFFs.  Every time we interact with anyone – from our life partner to the grocery store clerk – we are attempting to connect, be acknowledged, and reinforce the sense of connection that makes us human.  

Safe Conversations is not a communication technique. It is a tool for connecting, which opens the door for clear, safe, productive communication.

In a previous email, we covered the importance of talking without criticism. Today we’ll be elevating the art of listening without judgment.  

In school and in our careers, we’re rewarded for being good talkers. We compete for awards in public speaking and are graded on how cleverly and convincingly we convey our message. But what about listening?  Where are the rewards for being attentive, deeply understanding a concept, and being non-judgmental?

Listening must happen for talking to matter; effective listening gives talking its true meaning. 

We may present our message eloquently, but if no one listens, it’s all just words.

Listening without judgment is a demonstration of compassion and essential for connection.  Think about it. Do you feel connected to someone who’s judging you as you speak? Not likely. But what if they’re interested, even curious about what you’re telling them? Now you feel connected as if they can relate to what you’re saying and feeling. That’s empathy, and there can be no genuine connection without it. Listening without judgment is the beginning of empathy.

So, how do we listen without judgment?  

We start by choosing to replace that judgment with authentic curiosity. Curiosity as to what’s important to the other person about what they’re telling you; curiosity about what you might learn from what they have to say; curiosity about how connecting rather than judging might serve you both in the moment. Choosing to not be judgmental doesn’t equate to agreeing with someone.  Not at all. You have your beliefs, opinions, and values, and they have theirs. The difference is that when you refuse to judge, you acknowledge that they have just as much right to their beliefs as you have to yours. You give them the space and the grace to be themselves with you, which is all most of us ever ask for.

Listening without judgment is the doorway to connection. Curiosity and compassion are the keys to that door.