Listening without judgment is key to keeping communication open.

How to Listen Without Judging

by Shellie Braeuner

Most people are born with the ability to hear, but listening takes practice. Listening to others without judgment is even harder. However, it is vital to keep the pathways of communication open. When a person speaks without fear of judgment, he feels free to express who he is and what he thinks. This is useful at work or at home. It can be especially helpful when dealing with teens.

1. Non-Judgmental Listening

The key to listening without judgment is to listen empathetically. Empathetic listening means putting yourself in the shoes of the speaker. Parents and friends who listen empathetically are able to offer a sounding board for others, inviting more confidence and better communication. At its heart, empathetic or non-judgmental listening allows the person to really feel heard and valued.

2. Active Listening

Your mind can work faster than the speaker’s mouth. Active listening keeps your mind focused on what the speaker is saying. It prevents your mind from running ahead and coming up with solutions or judging the speaker. As an active listener, you look at the speaker and nod to show that she has your full attention. Ignore distractions such as the phone or even with the person might be wearing. When the person pauses or looks to you for affirmation, don’t jump in with a “yes” or “no” answer. This can slow or even stop the flow of communication.

3. Keep Yourself Calm

Keeping both your mind and body relaxed as you listen is key to showing a non-judgmental attitude. How you hold your body can tell your listener a lot. For example, if your teen wants to talk to you about his plans after high school: He may discuss plans for college and suddenly may drop the idea of taking a year off to work. If your body tenses, he may see this as passing judgment on his idea and shut down communication.

4. Restate

Restating shows the other person that you hear what he is saying. How you restate shows that you are not judging the speaker. When you restate, you repeat what the person says in a new way. For example, if the speaker says: “I don’t know if college is right next year. Maybe I can work for a year.” A judgmental reply would be: “What kind of a job can you get with a high school diploma?” This shows your obvious bias. To restate without judgment, you have to separate yourself from your opinion. You might restate the conversation by saying: “So you’re thinking about taking a year off?” This simply reflects the idea back to him without judgment.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.

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