Promoting20 Human20 Flourishing20with20 Interpersonal20 Listening20 Workshop20by20 Guy20 Itzchakov202022
Oct 23, 2023

Cultivating Connection: Interpersonal Listening & Human Flourishing - Guy Itzchakov & Netta Weinstein (video)

New ideas on increasing human connection and reducing polarization were sparked when listening researchers had the chance to practice what they study.

By Templeton Staff

New ideas were sparked when listening researchers had the chance to practice what they study. Watch highlights from the workshop that took place during TWCF's first annual Global Flourishing Conference. Video credit: Amitchi / Guy Itzchakov

“Listening is an opportunity to promote connection. Human flourishing is an outcome of connection,” says Guy Itzchakov. “And when you bring connection into the picture, suddenly you get so many new research questions and so many insights.” 

Itzchakov is an Associate Professor at the University of Haifa, where he directs the Interpersonal Listening and Social Influence Lab. He's been studying the effects of interpersonal listening for over a decade. During this time, he's observed in his own studies and in the work of others, the power of listening for speakers, listeners, organizations, and society. Although positive emotions, trust, liking, social connection, and relationship satisfaction have been linked to the practice of listening, in the context of the science of human flourishing, listening has yet to be amply studied, says Itzchakov — and many of his fellow researchers are beginning to agree.


"If we can harness listening through science, it has a lot of power to create change." -Netta Weinstein


"If we can harness listening through science, it has a lot of power to create change," says psychologist Netta Weinstein, Professor at the University of Reading and Research Associate at the University of Oxford Internet Institute. "First, understanding listening on a small scale, and then scaling up. Science has the power to extend these ideas. It's pretty fantastic."

The “Promoting Human Flourishing with Interpersonal Listening” workshop, organized by Itzchakov and Weinstein in collaboration with the University of Haifa, was a dynamic step in this direction. It took place as part of Templeton World Charity Foundation’s (TWCF) Global Flourishing Conference in 2022. Ideas from the workshop sparked proposals that resulted in several of the recently awarded grants under TWCF’s Listening and Learning in A Polarized World (LLPW) priority, and as reported by the participants, continues to inspire countless other avenues of research. 

Watch the above video for insights from workshop participants. You'll learn about:

  • How experiences of being listened to well “can contribute to lasting connection and happiness” from Sonja Lyubomirsky, Distinguished Professor, the University of California, Riverside, author of The How of Happiness.
  • The importance of “rigorous, scientifically sound research” from Virginia Cooper, Principal Advisor for LLPW at TWCF.
  • How the research world is beginning to value the importance of developing the ability to listen, “not as just a special skill set, but as part of becoming a fully formed human being” from Lora Park, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Buffalo.
  • How listening may be “the only way we're going to bridge the divide between people in different groups... If we continue to get more and more polarized, it may be really dangerous for the world,” from Richard E. Petty, Professor of Psychology at Ohio State University.

An Unconventional Approach
At the heart of the workshop's success was its interactive format. It encouraged participants to explore what they could learn from one another, emphasizing the importance of listening as a means to deepen research dialogues. “My goal was to invite international and local researchers (from Israel) who study various topics to build a community of listening research,” says Itzchakov. “I also wanted the workshop to be different from a typical conference, i.e., presentations followed by questions from the audience. Instead, I want to practice what I preach or practice what I research.”

Workshop attendees had the opportunity to participate in activities designed to enhance their listening skills and apply what they learned. These included role-playing exercises, group discussions, and listening circles. Participants worked in small groups that allowed them to brainstorm, learn from each other's ideas, and realize which topics arise, providing ground for broader exploration. Attendees also participated in a feedforward interview, a practical exercise in active listening that required participants in groups of two, to ask open-ended questions, listen attentively, and reflect on their partner’s comments for 17 minutes.


“I was astounded by how challenging it is to simply listen to the experience of another person, without interrupting, interpreting, or being distracted.” -Moran Mizrahi


“The workshop was structured in ways that allowed each of us to experience how challenging listening may be, and how high-quality listening is constantly threatened by inner (e.g., hunger, stress, exhaustion) and external (e.g., noise, text messages, alerts) distractors,” shares clinical psychologist, Moran Mizrahi. “Although as part of my work I am well-trained in listening, and was familiar with some exercises that we did, I was astounded by how challenging it is to simply listen to the experience of another person, without interrupting, interpreting, or being distracted.”

“We were asked to talk about the future of listening research, in ways both formalized and structured, and also informal and unstructured,” explains participant Monisha Pasupathi, Professor, Developmental Psychology University of Utah. “Listening was often foregrounded – as our instructions required us to repeat and elaborate on one another’s ideas. One consistent set of issues was the widely unexplored terrain of culture and listening.”

A Fountain of Ideas on Promoting Human Flourishing with Interpersonal Listening
Because of the unique approach to the gathering, seasoned researchers and senior professors were able to converse with graduate students just beginning their studies as “equals," says Itzchakov. “Everyone listened, and they were responsive to each other. As a result, a fountain of ideas about future research directions was evoked.”

Gregory Maio, Professor of Social and Personality Psychology and Head of Department at the University of Bath, England, studies intellectual humility in debate. “Like the other attendees, I was initially puzzled to be invited to a meeting for which I did not have to prepare a talk. By inviting us to attend without preparing a prior presentation, the focus immediately shifted us from what will we say? to what will we learn?,” says Maio. “The latter question is often what motivates us to get into academia, but too often academic work forces us to spend more time and energy on the former question.”

“We did an exercise yesterday that was forcing us to be really good listeners and you know here I am studying this and yet I found it a challenge. I found it difficult to do, and I was learning new things about how to make it happen,” Harry Reis, Professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester, confides.


“Listening sounds like a quick fix, but it's a lot of work to actually get there.”- Kenneth Demarree


Kenneth DeMarree, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University at Buffalo, says participating in the exercises reminded him “how complicated good listening is... Listening sounds like a quick fix, but it's a lot of work to actually get there. We're not born with the skill. It's something we have to learn and develop.”

For Avraham Natan (Avi) Kluger, participating in this event “reaffirmed my attitude that listening is a vehicle for flourishing.”  Driven by conversations at the workshop, Kluger, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Hebrew University Business School, says he decided to “dedicate my work in 2023 to tackling the definition of listening.”

Moty Amar, Senior Lecturer of marketing at the School of Business Administration of Ono Academic College, was also “greatly encouraged” to continue researching listening and says the workshop gave him “new tools to do so, including controlled-laboratory experiments, quasi-field experiments in organizations, and longitudinal studies.”

Read participant blogs and reports from the workshop here.

Learn more about TWCF’s Listening and Learning in A Polarized World (LLPW) here.

Learn more about Global Flourishing Conference here.