Judging Before You Listen

Absolution Mediation Blog by Jason Dykstra

This morning I watched a Ted Talk by Evelyn Glennie about how to listen (See below). I found it fascinating for a few reasons. Firstly there have been many mediators who write about the link between mediation and jazz music, how it helps to use improvisations and that we can only improvise if we’re listening to those around us. Also, Evelyn shows us how to think outside of the box, how to experiment with listening to music/people, and so much more.

There was one thing that I want to focus on, just a small part that Evelyn talked about. This is what she said (paraphrased)

It’s very easy for me to say I like that piece, or I don’t like that piece. But often I have to give it some time. It may be that the chemistry isn’t quite right between myself and that piece of music, but it doesn’t give right to say that it is a bad piece of music.

How often do you do this? I remember the first time I listened to one of my favourite (now) albums called “De-Loused in the Comatorium” by Mars Volta. I hated it…really, I didn’t see what all the fuss was! Then I listened to it again, and again, and again, and then couldn’t stop listening to it.

I have had the same thing with people as well. I met them and did not think highly of them, but then I saw them again and again and now we’re great friends. This doesn’t always happen of course, but it teaches us an important lesson, our first judgements can be wrong. What we initially think about a person can often not be accurate, BUT that isn’t the problem…the problem is when we refuse to re-evaluate the situation, when we refuse to truly listen to the person to find out what they are really like, when we aren’t open to changing our opinion.

There is nothing wrong with first impressions/perceptions/judgements, we do, however, need to put aside our biases in order to listen to those people and allow them to change our perception of them. The only way we can do this is to listen to them fully, quietly, thoughtlessly, and with a genuine curiosity. Listen to their stories (Because everyone has a story).

This video is 30 minutes long, but it will feel like 10 minutes, hope you enjoy and leave your comments/questions below!


Diane Cohen

Diane Cohen is a mediator in private practice and writes regularly on the process of mediation. Diane is an impasse mediator, and therefore mediates in all realms, but primarily in the family, divorce and workplace areas. Diane is a former co-president of the Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater… MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Listening To Clients

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins As a mediator, I have spent a great deal of time reading, training and thinking about how best to listen to the parties (as distinct...

By Nancy Hudgins

Designing for the Intensity of Online Mediation

The rapid shift to the greatest use of video conferencing technology has occurred, but how are we adapting ourselves and our mediations?  Thoughtful design of remote mediation and dispute resolution...

By Adam Stebbins

Negotiating Women On New Day Talk Radio Easter Sunday Noon

(and, yes, I am not only old enough to remember the "Second Wave" Women's Movement, I took a quite serious role in it, first as an unpaid volunteer and later through...

By Victoria Pynchon

Find a Mediator