Why Active Listening is Good for Your Brain

active listening brain researchAnyone who has experienced the effects of Active Listening, either as the person being listened to or the listener or both, knows that it is a powerful and miraculous skill.

Some new research from the Journal of the American Medical Association adds one more reason why it is such a vital skill. And one that is increasingly needed during this challenging time when we are all trying to be resilient in the face of the horrific pandemic that is having such a huge impact on every facet of our lives.

According to a recent study, empathic listening contributes to cognitive resilience. Cognitive resilience is a person’s ability to overcome the negative effects that setbacks, difficulties and stress can have on cognitive functioning.

In this study, the researchers proposed that the availability of specific forms of social support enhances a person’s cognitive resilience.
They identified these five forms of social support as:

1) availability of empathic (“supportive”) listening
2) advice
3) love and affection
4) emotional support
5) sufficient social contact.

Their purpose was to to learn whether these specific forms of social support were equally important in increasing cognitive resilience. The study included 2171 adults who were asked the following five questions about their level of social support:

  1. “Can you count on someone to listen to you when you need to talk?”
  2. “Is there someone available to give you good advice about a problem?”
  3. “Is there someone available to you who shows you love and affection?”
  4. “Can you count on anyone to provide you with emotional support?”
  5. “Do you have as much contact as you would like with someone you feel close to, someone in whom you can trust and confide?”

Empathic listening was the only one of these five forms of social support that was associated with increased cognitive resilience.

This association was not observed with the other four forms of social support. The research findings showed that people who had one person who truly listened to them had healthier brains and less dementia later in life than people who didn’t.

Source: JAMA Network Open, August 16, 2021

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