Volume 135, September 2014: Silencing the Voice of Judgment

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, 2014 ISSN # 1545-8873

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

In 1952, Carl Rogers rocked the world of communication by pointing to the Voice of Judgement (VOJ) as the single greatest communication barrier. “Through my experience in counseling and psychotherapy, I’ve found that there is one main obstacle to communication: people’s tendency to evaluate,” he wrote. We all have a natural urge to judge, evaluate, and approve (or disapprove) of another person’s statement. Our tendency is to evaluate what another person is saying and therefore to misunderstand and not “hear.” The voice of judgment closes the mind to possibilities and severs relationships. Blame and judgment stifle creativity for individuals and groups. When the voice of judgment speaks, wisdom is strangled; anxiety and resistance increase.

We can achieve real communication and avoid this evaluative tendency when we listen with intention to communicate. This means understanding the expressed idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view, sensing how it feels to the person, and considering his or her frame of reference about the subject being discussed. Pulling on their end of the rope is called empathy. I have heard it said that there is only one requirement for empathy – remember that the other person is trying to survive, just like you. Defensive distortions fall away when a person realizes you just wish to understand, not judge. Maybe the broken VOJ record keeps coming back at you because you have not conferred the respect of truly listening with understanding. It is courageous to enter another person’s world because you might have to change your way of thinking.

A technique used in psychotherapy is called Playback – a technique offered by the psychologist Carl Rogers and echoed by Stephen Covey. This means to summarize and restate what you have heard the other person saying – to their satisfaction. Then ask them to correct your understanding. It is extremely hard to do, and worse so in heated discussions. For that reason, a neutral third party might be called for – someone who can listen for all the parties involved.

Practice Point

As you listen, stop and suspend the little editor that runs a commentary on everything you hear. Quiet your inner critic and engage instead with the VOW – the Voice of Wisdom.


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