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OET Speaking: Build Empathy By Reserving Judgement

OET Speaking - Build Empathy By Reserving Judgement

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It’s easy to judge others by the standards you think are correct. He’s so selfish. I can’t believe she’s been that stupid. If you’ve ever caught yourself saying or thinking these things, you’re only human. The urge to assess someone by your own standards is very normal. Yet part of showing empathy (an essential component of the OET speaking test) means putting that aside.

It’s much more difficult to withhold judgement than it is to do the opposite. How do you hold back, especially in a professional situation? It’s frustrating to spend a day dealing with people whose actions appear wilful or thoughtless. Yet there’s a way to express your frustration while refraining from character assassination.

Start by recognising that desire to condemn. Catch thoughts such as What an idiot. It’s not necessarily true – it’s only that your behaviour in this moment would be different.

As a first step, switch from judging the person to judging the action. Thinking that’s a silly thing to do or that’s a selfish act means you’re not denouncing someone, only the fleeting moment of their behaviour.

Another step is to change the thrust of the thought to It’s a shame. For example, It’s a shame that Mr Smith isn’t doing anything to help his situation. It allows you to have an opinion, without assuming you’re a better person because of it.

And if, afterwards, you need to vent your spleen, go ahead. You can shout and rant, all while reserving judgement.

Remember that you never know the full picture. Pain and discomfort can make people do very strange things.

Tips for reserving judgement

  • Recognise you’re assessing a person’s intelligence or humanity
  • Step back and criticise the action, not the person who does it
  • Switch your thoughts to It’s a shame
  • Remember that you can’t know the full picture

Learning the speaking skills you need to pass OET is an integral part of our Reach OET B courses.

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Stephanie Lam
About the author

Stephanie Lam is a writer, journalist, and English teacher. She specialises in writing fabulous words for the wellbeing and health industries.

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