A huge amount of what we communicate doesn’t come from what we say, but how we say it, our facial expressions and our tone of voice. A new study has discovered that our sense of hearing might actually be more sophisticated than our sight when it comes to this, which may have a lot of benefits (and pitfalls!) when it comes to relationships.
The changing world
Now that we have endless options when it comes to communication, from email and text message to video chat and phone calls, we have far fewer reasons to meet and talk to someone face to face. Although this has made a lot of things easier and more convenient, has it also decreased our ability to connect and empathize with other people?
Empathising with someone is a really important part of connecting with them. It allows us to understand their perspective and resonate with them by feeling their emotions. Quite often our empathetic understanding comes from mirroring or subtly mimicking their facial expressions. Thankfully, newer research has shown that the voice can be a powerful way to connect – which is useful in a world where face to face contact has been exchanged for more technological options.
The eyes are the window to the soul
We are often told that the eyes are the windows to the soul and it is true that eye contact is essential when it comes to empathy. Studies have shown that we are able to detect subtle shifts in the looks that people give us and from there we are able to understand what they are feeling.
Hearing is better than seeing
However, Michael Kraus of the Yale University School of Management conducted a study which suggests that our sense of hearing may be even more accurate when it comes to detecting emotions than our sight. Hearing emotion in someone’s voice gives us a clearer picture of how someone is feeling than looking only at their facial expressions or even being able to see their expressions as well as hearing their voice. Therefore it is actually easier to be able to empathize with someone over the phone than in real life.
This is a really great way of being able to tell how people feel, although sometimes that can be an issue. For example, if you have a phone interview, your potential boss will be more likely to hear the nerves in your voice than they would have if you were doing the interview face to face.
Next time you have a phone call with someone, notice how you can sense the way they are feeling through the way their voice sounds on the line. You may notice that you can feel really attuned to their emotions and be able to empathize with them better than you would do face to face. Keep this in mind next time you have to make a phone call – the person on the other end of the phone might be able to sense your emotions a lot more than you would hope!