A new brain study by a group of researchers in Japan has found additional support for active listening as a useful strategy when communicating with your partner.
Hiroaki Kawamichi and his colleagues looked at what happens in the brain when we experience someone really listening carefully to us. Using functional MRI scans (that is, brain scans taken over a period of time when someone is doing something—like listening) the preliminary results indicate that reward centers in the brain get active when we feel listened to, and that we experience the other person more positively as well.
Active listening goes by many names and is a useful tool when you are in a conflict with your partner. See the article I wrote in the Resources section entitled “How to have a difficult conversation” for an introduction.
Stephen Covey summarized the gist of active listening in one of his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, which he called, “Seek first to understand, then be understood”.
Why is it effective? When you are in a conflict, both partners are looking to be understood at the same time. This is not possible and adds tension to an already frustrating situation. The need to be understood generates self-centeredness and that makes it hard to hear the other person.
Kawamichi’s research suggests that active listening has the potential to do something very important for your relationship. If you take the trouble to postpone your need to be heard, you partner will both feel good and will experience you more positively as well.
When it is your turn to be listened to, your chances of being heard are going to be greatly enhanced if your listening skills trigger a positive and receptive state of mind in your partner. It is a win-win situation.