Have you ever sat back with your eyes closed and listened to music or someone speaking? Why did you do it? Probably, to appreciate more fully and deeply what you were hearing. By shutting down one of our senses, we allow ourselves to hone in more deeply to the music or conversation.

Well, you are not crazy for doing this. A recent study, posted on LiveScience.com (posted on October 10, 2017 entitled  Listen, Don’t Look: Why Your Ears Can Tell More Than Your Eyes by Samantha Mattewson) reveals that our ears enlighten us more than our eyes. If we truly want to understand something or “… understand how someone else truly feels…”, we should close our eyes and simply listen. (Id.)

In a recent study from the American Psychological Association, researchers “…found that people who focus solely on listening to another person’s voice- including what the person says and vocal cues such as pitch, cadence, speed and volume- were able to better empathize with that individual.”(Id.)

To determine this, the researchers set up three groups of participants. One group listened only to conversations, one group listened and watched conversations and one group listened to computerized voice conversations.

The researchers determined, as just noted, that listening matters:

On average, the study found participants were able to interpret the emotions of their partner more accurately when they just listened to the other person and didn’t focus on facial expressions. Furthermore, listening to the computerized voice proved to be the least effective for accurately recognizing emotion. (Id.)

So, while our cultural mores indicate that we should look and listen to a person speaking to us, this study indicates that doing so will “…reduce our empathetic accuracy…” (Id.)

In negotiation training, we all learn the importance of active listening- to truly listen to what the other person is saying and acknowledge that she is being heard and understood. Empathy is an important part of active listening. If we are unable to view the situation from the other person’s perspective, we will never be able to find common ground and thus, a way to resolve the dispute. While it may seem rude to close our eyes to heighten our sense of listening, this study indicates this is precisely what we should do.

Perhaps to avoid the miscommunication that such behavior might send (i.e. lack of interest in what the person is saying!), we should first warn the speaker that this is what we are doing; closing our eyes not to be rude (or to fall asleep) but to listen more deeply to what she is saying.

It will certainly make for an interesting negotiation.

…. Just something to think about.


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