Closeness-Communication-Bias: That’s why we friends don’t really listen

Closeness communication bias
This is why we don’t really listen to our friend inside

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Do you know that? You are in the middle of a conversation with a: m friend: in or your: m partner: in and suddenly you realize that your thoughts are completely different and that you are no longer listening properly. This is completely normal and we also explain why.

Closeness communication bias is the cause when we suddenly switch off while talking to friends and no longer really listen. We are actually firmly convinced that we can communicate very well with our friends, above all, much better than with strangers. Studies prove the opposite, however.

I already know what you want to say …

When we talk to close friends, we think we know them so well that we also know what they are trying to say. This phenomenon is called: closeness communication bias. That doesn’t happen to us with strangers. Because we don’t know them, we concentrate more on our conversation partner and listen more attentively. An effect that shows up in our everyday life. For example, we are hardly aware of our familiar surroundings, but if we fly on vacation or go to an unknown area, we notice all the special details.


The closeness communication bias could also be demonstrated in an experiment. Participants were asked to follow the directions of a: s friend: in and made some self-centered mistakes in the process. For example, instead of listening, they reached for things that only they could see. Such mistakes did not happen to the participants who followed the instructions of strangers.

Listening is an art

Realizing that we often assume that people close to us will understand us without saying a word is the first step towards better communication. Because nobody can look into our head and read our thoughts. Communication is all the more important. But that also includes listening. So that we don’t fall into the closeness-communication-bias trap too often, it helps to be aware of things, especially that we are by no means an open book and that others always know exactly what and how we mean it. On the other hand, it’s the other way around. So: ask exactly if you don’t understand something and, above all, listen consciously. Like everything in life, this is also a matter of practice.

Source: The closeness-communication bias: Increased egocentrism among friends versus strangers. Kenneth Savitsk, et al. (2011)


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