Is This The Answer To Your Relationship Problems? Science Thinks So.

The Power Of Giving Your Complete Undivided Attention

 When was the last time you gave someone your undivided attention? When did you last really focus on someone whilst they spoke to you? And when have you ever chatted on the phone without fiddling with something on your laptop or focusing on the TV? 

If you’re anything like this writer, then it’s probably going to be pretty hard to pin down a time when you truly gave your undivided attention in those ways. Even as this writer is typing, she’s anxiously watching a wasp edge closer to her, not focusing on the task at hand. (Update: thankfully wasp has fled the scene, so back to giving this article her undivided attention.) 

“Listening involves more than hearing what the other person says; one also needs eyes, a heart, and undivided attention.”

Van Dulmen 

It turns out that although multitasking has its benefits, when it comes to human interaction, giving your full undivided attention is essential. 

A study by the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine and Queens Hospital UK found that “presence of undivided attention during the handover of a surgical patient in the postanesthesia care unit has a direct correlation with improved recall of the information discussed during handover.” The patient’s vital information shared during the handover process was retained and remembered by the transferring nurse, only if she gave it her undivided attention. The outcomes showed that “patient safety and recovery” as well as quality of medical care could potentially be improved if undivided attention during the handover of patients was implemented. 

Why is this study important? Well, it demonstrates that when we focus on one task and give it our full attention, the results can be life-changing, or in this case life-saving. And similarly, when it comes to maintaining relationships and keeping them in tip-top condition, giving your undivided attention, being present and maintaining information shared with each other may be the key to lifelong bliss. 

The study, Rethinking marital love: Defining and strengthening key factors in successful partnerships by Janet Reibstein, explored the relationships of couples who have been together for long periods of time and who declare themselves to be “happy couples.” The study suggests that their successful and happy relationships are due to a handful of key factors, one of which includes devoting “frequent intervals of undivided attention to each other.” 

With a world full of fascinating tech, awesome Netflix shows and lol-inducing Whatsapp group memes, this may sound like a mean feat (and way too much effort for an unguaranteed positive outcome). However, we’ve got 2 tricks up our attentive sleeves to help you get cracking with upping the quality of your relationship by utilising your undivided attention skills, which you can use in other areas of your life too. You ready? 

 1. Shut Up And Listen

“Our culture is one that speaks rather than listens. From reality TV to political rallies, there is a clamour to be heard, to narrate, and to receive attention.”

The Art of Listening by Berg.

Someone’s talking to you about the time they ran a ½ marathon and had blisters for weeks and all you want to do is talk about the time you ran a full marathon and you couldn’t sit down for the agony of your chauffage. Sound familiar? We all want to share and often better others with our own stories. And that’s fine. Except, are you actually listening to the details of your friend’s story? Or are you waiting to jump (or run, in this case) in and blurt out your own tale. We’re all guilty of it, don’t worry. As Psychologist Paul Donoghue said,  “Most people are very aware that other people don’t listen, but they’re not nearly as aware that they themselves don’t listen.” If you’re aware you don’t listen then at least you’re one step ahead of the rest of the world’s speakers/talkers/natterers. 

Our challenge for you is to truly listen to the next conversation you have with your partner. Don’t fill the silences with your words, let your partner fill them with their thoughts. What you’ll often find is they’ll naturally ask you questions about yourself anyway. When your Apple watch beeps and it’s a message from a friend, don’t look at it. Don’t even acknowledge it. Just remain totally present with your partner. By doing this, you may find they open up and share some insights or stories you never expected. 

By listening you’ll do the following: 

  • Show your partner that they are worthy of your time. 
  • Show your partner that you’re invested in them and respect their opinions. 
  • Learn from them and what they’re sharing with you. 
  • Ultimately, tighten the bond you have with your partner each time you give them your undivided attention. 

2. Feedback & Communicate 

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Ken Blanchard

You’ve tuned in and listened to your partner. And it feels good, right? Now it’s time to show you’ve been present and attentive by giving feedback and/or responding to what they’ve said. 

Research has shown that the power of positive feedback can be astounding. The study, “I Had Not Seen Star Wars” and Other Motives for Divorce in Denmark by the University of Copenhagen looked at the motives of 2,371 Danish residents to find out why they got divorced. One of the most frequently given motives was communication problems, which surprisingly had overridden personality motives. Another top motive was a “lack of sympathy/respect/trust.” Perhaps we can take from this that listening to your partner, feeding back to their conversations and offering advice, sympathy and empathy is likely to gain their trust and respect. The study describes how these results “support global trends regarding an increased importance of emotional and psychological aspects of relationships.” 

By feeding back and communicating you’ll do the following: 

  • Show your partner that you’re giving them your undivided attention. 
  • Flex your neuroplasticity by focusing on just one thing. 
  • Create a strong bond based on sympathy, respect and trust. 
  • Potentially save a closed off relationship.

It seems then, that the key to a happy relationship is to communicate, feedback and listen. And if it’s not, we reckon it’s certainly worth a try! 

Why not practice and train your attention skills with our brain training app? We’ve designed games specifically to work your attention skills to the max, which you can then apply when conversing with your partner. A recent study published in Frontiers Of Behavioral Neuroscience showed that the Peak game Decoder improved player’s attention. Check out the video below to explore the science behind our game Decoder:

Sources Cited:

Maisie Bygraves

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