How To Listen Judgement Free
Communication without the explanations & how to listen judgement free: a how-to for the speaker and the listener
Communicating Without the Explaining or How to Listen Judgment Free? Have you ever been at fault for letting a friend or loved one down? Has a friend approached you about it, expressing their thoughts and emotions on the issue, and when the discussion occurred, did you sit there fully hearing your friend’s reality without judgment, blame or explanation? Or did you listen to your friendly with only half of your focus and energy, while using the other half to get your thoughts and response in order? Looking back on that conversation, you may be wondering why the confrontation didn’t bring the resolution you were hoping for. For many it goes against one’s nature not to explain ourselves or to try and justify our actions in an attempt to solve the conflict. What many are unaware of is that the use of explanations in response to someone sharing the emotions and experiences devalues the speaker’s experience.
To explain is to deviate from what was just said by the speaker. Good communication requires fully hearing your friend/partner’s reality without regard to your own perspective. For many the idea of communication without explanation goes against what feels right. The act of simply listening and becoming fully immersed in the other person’s world without regard to making sure the other person heard ‘how right you are feels wrong,’ and may even feel like you are allowing yourself to get walked on (and you may be wondering what-the-heck do-we-mean-by”how to listen judgement free”).
The following is common example of how most listener’s tend to respond to a loved one expressing negative emotions about a negative experience involving the listener:
Speaker Says: “Dad when you agree to meet me at the movies, I waited for over an hour and you didn’t show up or call, what I made up about that was you didn’t want to spend time with me, and I was not important to you, and I felt hurt.”
The Listener’s Response: “I know I broke a promise to you but work went on late and I thought we said we’d keep our plans tentative, and I actually did call you but…..”
In this example, the listener’s focus went completely to the explanation, rather than hearing and honoring what it was like for the speaker to wait for her dad at the movies, not know where he was, and in the end feel less important. It’s important to remember as the listener our goal is simply to find out who the other person is, and what their experience is, in this brief moment; it is not about us, our feelings, or our perspective.
When we get stuck on our explanation, not only are we taking the focus off of the speaker’s experience, but it is likely that some of the speaker’s data will be missed, and not heard because the listener is failing to listen and instead busy building his/her argument. Removing the goal of explaining as the listener allows the one who is speaking to share information without judgment. This type of freedom in communicating can be very positive for many, the idea that “If I need to share my perspective with my partner, I know he will not argue, justify, or ignore.” Having such a positive experience with communication can hesitation and anxiety of confrontation and communication and instead can increase one’s willingness to share more.
How to listen judgment free: To be a good listener, you need to focus solely on what the listener is sharing without responding. To purely listen without blame, judgment, or an explanation demonstrates an ability to respect your own boundaries, as well as the speaker’s. We are all entitled to our own emotions, and our own personal experiences, even if they are different from someone else who went through the same situation. We cannot change how one feels, or control how one is impacted by experiences, and to listen without explaining signifies this understanding.
To get you started in more positive communication, here are a few basic steps to keep in mind the next time you find yourself listening to a friend or family member’s perspective. As the listener, listen to determine if what you hear the speaker saying is accurate to you, or not accurate to you. If you find the information to be accurate, be open to what you’re hearing, process it, and check in with yourself about your feelings around what you’ve heard. For example, do you feel pain hearing what the speaker’s experience was? If what you’re hearing is not accurate to you, protect your emotions by not internalizing the speaker’s experience or feelings. To help with this, find a mantra you can repeat to yourself, such as “this is not about me,” or “this is not my experience, but it is ___’s experience.”
If you’re unsure if you find the information to be accurate or inaccurate, request more information to help you determine this. Again, do this without attacking, without blame, or explanation. Likely this experience will be uncomfortable in the beginning because this is a new tool you are using for the first time. However, if the experience is so uncomfortable you find the situation to be inappropriate due to your values, address this with the speaker, and tell them to stop.
If you are wondering, “Well when do I get to explain my point of view?” Or, “Will I ever get to explain myself again?” Yes and Yes. First, in order to explain your point of view, roles need to be switched; you are now the speaker, and the former speaker now takes on the role of the listener. It is time to switch once the former speaker has identified he/she has shared all the important data, and his/her perspective has been accurately shared. (Chance to hyperlink here to lead this reader to the next tip on how to be the speaker). As for explanations in the future, there is a time and place for them, but only upon request. If the speaker has asked for you to explain yourself, consider it to be your green light, otherwise save your energy and focus for fully hearing the speaker.
As you try and utilize this tool, you will find in the beginning how difficult it is to avoid explaining yourself when confronted with conflict. Don’t be surprised if you discover that you explain more than you were aware of. Having a non-biased third party, will be effective in the initial stages of practicing explanation free communication.