No Judgments, No Questions
“You jerk, are you talking to me?” This is an invitation to a battle, a preparation for a vicious argument and yet, it contains the seeds of healthy communication. When we call a person a “jerk,” we are actually judging them as bad. Any judgment leads us to label a person as either “good” or “bad.” Once we identify a person as “good,” we must reward them; when we see them as “bad,” we must punish them. We are choosing to make a decision regarding their “person” and this can be seen as a form of rejection if we see them as “bad.”
The most hurtful action is to deny a person’s existence, to reject them. This is an existential injury and wounds others, and ourselves, to the core of our being.
When we ask a question, “are you talking to me?” we evoke a wall or shield that seems to appear automatically in the person. Perhaps we learned to create this automatic protection device when we were in grammar school and “forgot” to read the assignment.
The instructor asks us a question and our protective shield activates. This seems to be such an automatic response that we are unaware of this protective response and the effect it has on others. This subconscious reaction can color and control our lives, forcing us into unforeseen conflict situations. People can perceive us as moving away from them or rejecting them when our shield activates. They may be overwhelmed by this rejection and perceive it as an attack. Now we have the beginning of a conflict.
The resolution to this situation is simple and challenging. Make no judgments and ask no questions. This may sound like an impossible task. Instead of judging a person, consider evaluating their behavior. We can love a person and not support, agree nor like their behavior. We are able to minimize their defensive response when we address the behavior without rejecting the person. That was the easy part, now for the challenge, no questions.
Never ask a question when you already know the answer, unless you are an attorney. It presents as an attack and stimulates the automatic shield response. “What were you thinking when you did that?” is an example. First, you know that they were not thinking.
Second, you actually do not care what they were thinking. Third, it does not matter what they will say, you made your decision regarding their behavior before asking the question.
“How was your day?” This may be perceived as an attack if you had an unpleasant day and were unwilling to revisit it. Consider this statement “I am looking forward to hearing about your day when you are ready.” “What did you do today?” Again, there is the possibility of a negative reaction as shield goes up. Consider this statement “I was wondering what activities were of interest to you today?”
”I am wondering…”, “I am looking forward to…” and “I am open to your sharing…” are invitations, not questions, yet they evoke a response that occurs without the automatic shield. This may seem like a great deal of work just to talk with someone. Think of it as a different mindset.
Consider the following activity as a way of practicing this new mindset.
Every day we use the question “How are you?” as an automatic greeting and our response is usually “Fine.” The fact is we most likely are not interested in the person explaining their state of health and we are certainly not interested in sharing our information with them.
Practice this alternative mindset by greeting a person with a statement “It is good to see you.” You accomplish your goal of recognizing and accepting them without the question. They experience acceptance without rejection and the automatic shield response.
Copyright © 2016 Dr. MarcAndré Bock. All Rights Reserved.