Last week ‘Time to Talk Day’ highlighted the importance of talking.

But the art of listening should also be championed.

In particular, non-judgemental listening.

Non-judgemental listening is about trying to really understand the other person. Going beyond just hearing the words spoken and understanding exactly what the other person is saying.


Really listening.

Is so important right now. It acts as a valve to release emotional pressure – allowing the speaker to feel heard and valued.

So see below for 5 tips for non judgemental listening when someone is experiencing mental ill health.

1.) Reflect on your own state of mind

Make sure you’re in the right frame of mind to talk and listen to someone. Set aside any judgements you hold. Reflect on your mind. Ensure you’re feeling calm, open and ready to help.

2.) Adopt an attitude of acceptance, genuineness and empathy

A helpful attitude can be remembered by the acronym AGE. AGE means adopting an attitude of acceptance, genuineness, and empathy.

Acceptance means respecting the person’s feelings, values and experiences as valid. Even if you disagree with them or they’re different to your own.

Genuineness is showing the person you accept them and their values by what you say and do. Your body language is in sync with your talk.

Empathy is the ability to ‘place yourself in the other person’s shoes’. To show that you truly hear and understand what they’re saying and feeling – by getting on their wavelength.

3.) Use verbal skills to show that you’re listening

Simple verbal skills can help you show the person that you’re actively listening to them.

These include asking questions or using minimal prompts like ‘I see’, ‘Yes’ or simple noises such as ‘ah’ or ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue. By providing this ‘feedback’ the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and communicate more easily, openly and honestly.

4.) Maintain positive body language

55% of communication is body language. Says the communication researcher Albert Mehrabian. His research identified a formula for understanding communication; 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% actual words spoken.

Positive body language shows the person you’re listening and truly care.

In non-Covid times this would mean being close, inclining your head and facing the speaker. But in these virtual times we need to be aware of how our body language is perceived through a screen.

A few virtual body language tips are:

Make constant eye contact – ensure your eyes are at the same horizontal level as the camera on your computer.

Smile genuinely and nod – signals your presence on screen, that you’re attentive and listening.

Sit straight and lean slightly toward the screen – with an open posture this expresses interest, whereas slumping suggests lethargy.

Mirror the other person’s body language – great for establishing a connection. Mirror the postures and gestures of the speaker.

5.) Recognise cultural differences

Cultural diversity can mean people having different beliefs. Having different meanings of words, behaviours and gestures. So being culturally competent is important when listening non-judgementally

If you are helping someone from a cultural background different from your own, you might need to adjust some verbal and nonverbal behaviours, such as the level of eye contact or amount of personal space.

Be prepared to discuss what is culturally appropriate and realistic for the person or seek advice from someone from the same cultural background.

Non judgemental listening is part of the online mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England training. If you’re interested in becoming a Mental Health First Aider drop me a line.