are you lIs­ten­Ing?

Society - - SOCIETY SAYS SO -

WanT to change some­one’s opin­ion? Start by lis­ten­ing: Pay­ing close at­ten­tion to speak­ers can lower their so­cial anx­i­ety and make them more open-minded, ac­cord­ing to a se­ries of pa­pers in Per­son­al­ity and So­cial Psy­chol­ogy Bul­letin. “When some­one ar­gues with us, we feel as if our right to hold our be­liefs is be­ing vi­o­lated, so we bol­ster our own at­ti­tudes,” says Guy Itzchakov, a so­cial psy­chol­o­gist at Ono Aca­demic Col­lege in Is­rael. “But at­ten­tive lis­ten­ing makes speak­ers feel psy­cho­log­i­cally safe, so they can be­gin to no­tice con­tra­dic­tions in their own as­ser­tions,” he ex­plains, and they may bet­ter tol­er­ate con­tra­dic­tory thoughts and emo­tions. Itzchakov and col­leagues have also found that people who speak about con­tro­ver­sial top­ics to a care­ful lis­tener (rather than a less at­ten­tive one) feel more con­fi­dent that they un­der­stand their own be­liefs without feel­ing more cor­rect. Fur­ther, there is ev­i­dence that these speak­ers’ opin­ions end up be­ing less ex­treme. At­ten­tive lis­ten­ing tech­niques that could prove help­ful in­clude avoid­ing dis­trac­tions (such as cell phones) and show­ing em­pa­thy with non­ver­bal cues like smil­ing and head nod­ding. Per­haps just as im­por­tant, Itzchakov says, “You must recog­nise times when you sim­ply aren’t able to lis­ten.” Bet­ter to post­pone a weighty talk to a time when you can give it full at­ten­tion.

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