We miss important communication cues when we're not face-to-face.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Images
We have become accustomed to politicians shouting at each other, and confrontational TV talk show hosts who do anything but listen to their guests, but how good are any of us at truly focusing on the words of others in our conversations?
Our inability to listen to each other has contributed to all sorts of problems, including a worldwide loneliness epidemic, says Murphy. In the 1980s, about 20% of Americans said they often felt lonely and left out. By 2018, nearly 50% said they did not have frequent meaningful social interactions, according to studies the author writes about in her book. Murphy also points to a rise in so-called “diseases of distress” associated with loneliness, including suicide, drug addiction and alcohol abuse.
Distracting technology, particularly smartphones, has played a significant role in degrading our ability to listen and connect with others face-to-face, says Murphy. The result is “soul-sucking conversations” that leave people feeling empty and alone. Social media, where everyone is “starring in their own movie,” has also exacerbated the problem, she adds. However, Murphy thinks that the social isolation induced by the pandemic has led to a greater appreciation of the value of in-person relationships.
Want to become a better listener? Murphy says it is not hard. A good test, to discover how well you were listening after a heart-to-heart conversation, is to ask yourself two questions. First, what did I learn about the person I just listened to? Second, how did that person feel about what we were talking about? Much can be revealed by nonverbal communication and voice tone, she says, so pay attention to those things as well.
Will you support The World?
There is no paywall on the story you just read because a community of dedicated listeners and readers have contributed to keep the global news you rely on free and accessible for all. Will you join the 314 donors who’ve stepped up to support The World? From now until Dec. 31, your gift will help us unlock a $67,000 match. Donate today to double your impact and keep The World free and accessible.