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In these politically polarizing times, many people around the world are feeling even more disconnected from each other. Even worse, many of us have totally stopped trying to connect with people that have different beliefs, with the idea that it’s impossible, a waste of time, and/or a sure path to stressful arguing. 

But connect we must. And connected listening is a tool that can help.

What Is Connected Listening?

Connected listening is grounding yourself in a place of non-judgment, and really trying to understand what the person talking is trying to say. 

We don’t mean speculating about ulterior motives . . . we mean just being there with an open heart, taking in what they’re telling you. Really listen to their words, and observe their emotions without contradicting or judging them.

Try to Understand the Person’s Viewpoint

Ask them to explain why they feel the way they do about a specific issue — not in a challenging way that suggests they need to defend their position, but from a place of non-judgmental curiosity and compassion. Ask them about their concerns, and hear the answers without attacking them. Just listen for a while. Try to put yourself in their shoes.

After you’ve considered the issue from their perspective, you will better understand what they care about — and how you might speak to them in a way that’s meaningful to them. You may even discover that there is some common ground between you (even if it’s just common politeness). 

Whether or not you wind up in agreement, though, connected listening puts you in a much better position to have compassion for their lived experience. They are not some anonymous, incomprehensible monster opposing everything you hold dear — they are a fellow human being with a different life experience, and the right to hold a different opinion from you. 

An Upward Spiral of Respect and Compassion 

Connected listening enables respectful and compassionate sharing of viewpoints. Once you have given non-judgmental attention to another person’s views, instead of immediately attacking them, most people are more willing to return the favor — and give you the same chance to explain your views.

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