The science of friendship and the value of listening

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“There are real evolutionary advantages to being good at making and maintaining friends, you could say that there has been a survival of the friendliest,” says Lydia Denworth. Photo by Shutterstock.

Friendship is one of the most important components and predictors of emotional and physical well being. Jonathan Bastian talks with Lydia Denworth, science journalist and author of “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond,” about how friendship can affect our health and why the bonds of kinship are often more significant than those of marriage. 

 “A good friendship is as important to our health as diet and exercise,”  Denworth says, explaining that success in life also has a lot to do with our ability to make friends. “It's not to say that there aren't some successful jerks out there. But the best odds are that if you're good at making friends and you have strong friends around you, you will do better.” 

Journalist Lydia Denworth tracks the biological, psychological, and evolutionary foundations of friendship. Photo by Jessica Barthel.

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Another key component of a good friendship is the ability to listen and truly pay attention to what someone else is saying. Jonathan Bastian also talks with Oscar Trimboli, mentor, public speaker, podcast host, and author of “Deep Listening; Impact Beyond Words,” about how to become a better listener. Trimboli explains that when it comes to communication, listening is as important as talking.

“The cost of not listening, to me, is huge, and I just wish more people understood that the root cause of confusion, chaos, and conflict is often the absence of listening,” says Trimboli. “We’re addicted to the process of jumping in and interrupting … we want to contribute to the dialogue. I often say to [my clients], if it's a one-on-one dialogue you're having with somebody, the only question you need to ask at the beginning of the conversation is, how would you like me to listen?”  

Trimboli shares the research and some helpful advice on how specifically to be able to listen well.

“One of the things that are common myths around listening is that it's your job as the listener to make sense of what they're saying,” he says.  “The dirty little secret of listening is to be potent and powerful as a listener. Your job is just to help the speaker make sense of what they're thinking.” 

Oscar Trimboli. “Deep Listening; Impact Beyond Words”

Read the interview transcripts with Lydia Denworth and with Oscar Trimboli.




Andrea Brody