Non-Judgmental Listening as a Catalyst for Innovation

by Mitch Ditkoff

If there is person you know who is on the cusp of a breakthrough, big idea, or simply struggling to figure something out, there is one thing you can do that will be supremely helpful. It has nothing to do with your good ideas, insights, or intuitions, of which you probably have many. It has everything to do with your ability to listen non-judgmentally.

Being listened to is what aspiring innovators need the most, but it is often what they get the least.

Well-meaning friends, spouses, and colleagues assume that their advice, ideas, and suggestions are what’s needed when, in fact, their advice, ideas, and suggestions are either uninvited, poorly timed, or overwhelming.

It’s a bit like that old saw: the best way to tame a horse is to give it a big meadow in which to run.

The aspiring innovators in your life need a big meadow, not your big ideas — and it is your listening that creates the meadow.

Creative thinkers need space to roam, wander, and meander. They need the relaxed state of mind that comes when someone, non-judgmentally, really listens to them — without attempting to fix, improve, advise, suggest, or resolve.

Talking, in fact, is how many people think. In other words, they don’t know what they think until they have a chance to “talk it out”. But if there’s no one listening, “talking it out” becomes very difficult.

The paradox? The smarter and more creative you are, the harder it is to really listen to others — especially if they are frustrated, confused, or stressed. Because you don’t want to see others struggling, you take on the role of “fixer”, trying to resolve their issues with your insight and wisdom. Not a good idea.

While you may have a lot of insight and wisdom, your insight and wisdom is not what’s needed. What’s needed is listening. Authentic, non-judgmental, unhurried, no strings attached listening.

Who, in your life, do you need to listen to more deeply? And what can you do, this week, to create the conditions that will encourage them to talk?

image credit: courtesy of ucdavis.edu/catalyst-magazine

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Mitch DitkoffMitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, an innovation consulting and training company, headquartered in Woodstock NY. He is also a big believer in the inspired words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a handful of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, that’s all that ever has.” Follow him @mitchditkoff