Good Conversations don't leave you Feeling Judged

Good Conversations don’t leave you Feeling Judged

Feeling judged can make you want to hide. Why put yourself out there if people are going to judge you? What you want is a good conversation. 


They didn’t have the conversation because they knew they would feel judged. Feelings of being dismissed, ridiculed, ‘shot-down’, laughed at, mocked would land on the already fragile soul.

All they wanted was for someone to listen to them without condemnation.

Instead, like a snail retreating into its shell, they hid.

Perhaps an internet search would provide some answers. A place where you can get some answers (not always the best ones) without the risk of exposure to judgment.

It’s anonymous and risk free of being judged for having suicidal thoughts. Safe, private, and you’re in control.

So we type what longs to be heard.

Good conversations don’t leave you feeling judged

We want to be known, but we don’t want to be seen.

I’ve been there, and you probably have too.

You’ve shared something and felt the dismissal, the quick advice, the condemnation. Every time this happens, you build the walls thicker from the inside out.

Then you’re given a label, diagnoses, category, and the judgments become like concrete porridge around your movement.

Instead, you long for a good conversation.

One where there’s no risk of judgment, rejection, humiliation or being ignored.

You’ll get some information, some help, maybe some different perspectives offered so that you will be a little more equipped to handle those dark moments.

Coming at night

There is an interesting Jesus’ story about a man who I believe lived in great fear of others judging him.

Always in the public eye, Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council. Jesus called him a teacher of Israel.

He was someone that others watched closely, modelled their lives off, and yet, in his secret private life, he had questions that he could not share with anyone because if he did so, he might lose everything. 

So he came to see Jesus at night. No one would see him.

There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews.

Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.” John 3:1,2

I think if it was today and Nicodemus wanted his questions answered, he might send Jesus a very private email.

People email me. You can too.

I have a very high open rate (50%) for the weekly emails I send out and I think it’s because people like their privacy. Give me the information without the risk of a conversation.

Some email me back (I like that a lot) and we get into conversation. It helps us both.

‘Please don’t judge me’

I hear the words ‘Please don’t judge me’ often.

It’s a plea to not make condemning conclusions. Others may have done this, and now they live in the dark shadows of those words.

What they most yearn for is to be listened to.

They want someone to listen to the whole of their story and for help to make sense of it all.

Often their soul has been seen as something to be fixed, advised, saved, set straight (F.A.S.S.). Certainly not something to go too deep with.


An Oasis of gentle curiosity

Someone recently said to me that what they needed most was ‘An oasis of gentle curiosity in a desert of sun hot judgment.’

A place where one can sit, drink cool water, and talk if needed.

Somewhere to stop and breathe.

A conversation where you know it is safe to tell the other how things really are and that your disclosures aren’t going to be spread around in the marketplace, or used as a case study,

That’s what a good conversation gives to both parties. Gentle, unrushed curiosity.

An Oasis of gentle curiosity

Please don’t leave them feeling judged

Our feelings are our responsibility. We have to own them ourselves, but the actions of others can certainly blow on the wind vane of our feelings.

So if someone is being vulnerable with you, here are some suggestions.

  1. Don’t rush the conversation. Let it unfold at its own pace.
  2. Insure the privacy of the moment. They need to know their exposure is safe.
  3. Ask lots of gently curious questions. Make it your goal to have a higher ratio of questions to answers.
  4. Be open about how you don’t have all the answers. They need to hear your own inadequacy and vulnerability.
  5. Tell them they are loved, held, and known even in the midst of mess

Let’s develop our listening so others know where they can find an oasis in a desert.


Quotes to consider

  • It is much easier to look for someone to blame, sue, expel, or expose when there is no coherent meaning or divine purpose in the world. Someone has to be at fault for my unhappy life! Rohr, Richard 
  • Sinners often speak the truth. And saints have led people astray. Examine what is said, not the one who says it. Anthony de Mello
  • He condemned nothing in haste and without taking circumstances into account. He said, “Examine the road over which the fault has passed.” Victor Hugo
  • Sensitive listeners respond to comments with words that convey an interest in hearing more, sentences that open the door to information. Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1. ‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.’ Larry Crabb 
  • A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions. St. Francis of Assisi


Questions to answer

  1. What experiences have you had where you have felt judged without being fully listened to?
  2. What is needed to fully listen to someone?
  3. Larry Crabb writes ‘Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1. ‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.’ What words open doors for you to be honest and vulnerable?

Formation exercise

  • Listen to someone with the attitude of 1. ‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.’ What gets stirred up in you as practice this? 

Further reading


Caged By the Opinions of Others

You’re not a Problem to be Fixed

Please. No Fixing, Advising, Saving or Straightening Out

Barry Pearman

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash


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