Empower people with non-judgemental listening

This is a piece I have been trying to write since I left PeopleKeep. In my farewell letter, I wrote: "My only regrets are the moments that I put the immediate business goals over important human relationships... If there’s one piece of wisdom to be imparted, it is to always have the courage to put people first." These regretful moments set me off on a journey to understand what I needed to change in order to avoid repeating this mistake. Through this journey, I have discovered a critical skill. I'm calling it non-judgemental listening. Non-judgemental listening explains so many "regretful" interactions I've had with important people over the course of my life... interactions that left those people thinking I loathed them (when I really loved them). I hope this concept helps others empower the people they care about most.

As humans, we need to judge. Our survival depends on it. Judgement is how we assess danger. It is a tool for survival. Yet, judgement threatens our ability to empower people. Why? Because it prevents us from understanding them.

Think about what happens when somebody comes to you with a problem. Your urge is to solve it. However, most of the time, they are not asking for a solution. They’re asking to be understood so you can help them solve their problem on their own. Yet, your judgements get in the way.

When we listen with judgement, we attack. We put others on the defensive. We shut down their ideas. We hold them back.

We’re all entitled to our own opinions. We just have to know when to keep them to ourselves and how to express them in a constructive way. We can do this with “non-judgemental listening”.

With non-judgemental listening, we listen to understand instead of listening to fix. We put our own beliefs and values to the side. This is easier said than done. We’re often unaware we’re judging until it’s too late.

Non-judgemental listening does not mean you will not judge. It means you will listen without allowing yourself to apply your judgements to what you hear. We become aware of our judgements. We gain control. And we get to choose. Do we respond with judgement? Sometimes this is necessary. Or do we listen without it?

When we listen without judgement, we understand. We put others on the offensive. We nurture their ideas. We empower them.

This article was featured in The Salt Lake Tribune, the Desert News, and the Park Record.