Being more socially connected can improve  stress responses and  minimize the  negative health effects  of stress.1,

Two Ears, One Mouth: The priceless gift of non-judgmental listening

#listening #socialconnections #surgeongeneral mental health first aid Nov 20, 2023

A priceless gift you may consider offering any time of year is the gift of nonjudgmental listening. In a society where the paradox of loneliness prevails1 despite our digital connections, the art of truly connecting through nonjudgmental listening becomes priceless.

If you are one of the 3 million+ adults in the U.S. trained in Mental Health First Aid, you know that “Listen Nonjudgmentally” is one of five steps in the MHFA Action Plan (ALGEE). We are trained to set our own emotions and beliefs aside to allow someone to share. Being heard and understood is something that can be extremely helpful in one’s journey to recover from a mental health challenge. You can be immensely helpful simply by holding space and listening.

Practical Steps for Nonjudgmental Listening

1. Cultivate Awareness

Before engaging in conversations, cultivate awareness of your hot button issues and viewpoints. When we encounter opinions that differ from ours, our initial instinct might be to react defensively or dismissively. True listening involves acknowledging differences respectfully and opening ourselves to understanding another person's viewpoint, regardless of agreement.

2. Curiosity as a tool

Listen attentively without interruption. Show genuine interest through nods, affirmations, and verbal cues that indicate you are engaged and receptive to their thoughts. Approach conversations with curiosity. Asking open-ended questions to delve deeper into someone's perspective shows a genuine interest in understanding their thoughts and experiences.

3. Suspend Judgment

Create a mental space where judgment is suspended. Just try to remain neutral and curious. Keep facial expressions to a minimum and try to keep an open body posture. These non-verbal cues sometimes speak louder than words.

4. Seek Common Ground

Look for areas of agreement or common values within the conversation. Finding common ground fosters connection and understanding, even amidst differences.


Self-Care after Connection

It is true that these efforts can sometimes feel draining. Be sure that when making efforts to offer the gift of non-judgmental listening, you are filling up your bucket by taking diligent care of yourself. This may mean acknowledging when you need extra rest or to take some moments for yourself.

Also, if you are not up for the challenge of listening non-judgmentally it might be best to focus on yourself for now. There will be no shortage of opportunities to lend your ears and heart to the service of listening.

1  Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, has long been a vocal advocate for highlighting the pervasive issue of loneliness, recognizing its impact on society. The global pandemic provided everyone with firsthand encounters of loneliness, catapulting this issue into a more prominent position in public awareness. My friends know that Dr. Vivek Murthy is the celebrity I would most like to meet, and this is my first of more attempts at manifesting a meeting in 2024! Source: Current Priorities of the US Surgeon General - Social Connections