Research suggests there is something about our voice, in particular, that increases intimacy and staying connected.
“There are linguistic cues that come through someone’s voice that suggest a feeling and thinking mind,” says Amit Kumar, an Assistant Professor of Marketing and Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin . “And since connecting with somebody means getting a little closer to their mind, voice-based communication makes that easier or more likely.”
He points to other research that also emphasizes the importance of voice in our communication. For example, people asked to evaluate a potential job applicant found the applicant to be more thoughtful, intelligent, and competent if they’d heard rather than read the person’s job pitch. What’s interesting to Kumar’s study is that adding a video to the conversation was no more impactful than hearing the pitch without one.
In another study, people who listened to someone express a political viewpoint that did not compliment their own were less likely to dehumanize that person than people who simply read the transcript of their argument. Talking to people from different political parties or viewpoints (rather than texting or responding to them on Facebook) might help bridge divides.
Our voices transfer a myriad of emotions, which helps us understand one another better and feel more empathic. In fact, at least one study found that voice-only communications may be superior to those that include video, because they help people read others’ emotions more accurately. Although it might seem trivial, the way we choose to communicate matters. We shouldn’t let fears of awkwardness lead to less promising interactions.
Listening can be hard. Especially if you are listening to something you don’t understand, or disagree with. Great interviews shed light on the world. Conversations help us understand not only what is happening in the world, but why.
Even when you don’t understand the words someone is saying, a human voice still establishes a connection like nothing else can. As a child, I remember my parents telling me stories about their life. They had no pictures to share. They had no videos, TikToks, Snapchats, or emojis, no virtual reality.
They had their voice. Their stories. And those voices left me with a deep sense of empathy for what they experienced and endured. A life that spanned the 20th century. They saw tragedy and miracles. They experienced struggle and new cultures. Their voice took me there.