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  • Beth

Why Face-to-Face Communication Matters

Recently, a client described how her relationship with her partner had broken down over the course of 27 WhatsApp messages. She retrieved her phone to recount the bulk of the ‘conversation’.


We explored how things had deteriorated so rapidly and drastically. While there was no doubt there was much to explore in terms of communication between them, I was mostly struck by the medium they’d used to articulate such important, heightened emotions.


By the next session, they had resolved things. How? They met for coffee and talked things through. “I’d misunderstood a lot of what he was saying,” she laughed.


Later, I reflected on my own disastrous conversations over messages or emails, the fallouts of which had been swiftly resolved once we spoke in person.


Recognising the importance of face-to-face communication is not a new concept. Covid-19 led to renewed research into how the lack of in-person connection negatively impacted mental health. But in a world where we find it so easy to interact with others through digital messaging, it’s worth remembering why face-to-face contact is so beneficial to our relationships.


Research shows that our minds are wired to respond better to face-to-face contact. We often rely on the subtleties of non-verbal cues to read a person's intentions - we gauge much from the smallest of facial expressions and shifts in tone of voice.


But more than this, making eye contact when you communicate with another person releases oxytocin - the ‘cuddle chemical’ that we associate with love - and its release has a powerful impact on our emotions. Oxytocin reduces anxiety and lowers our stress response; it can minimise fear and positively affect our feelings of trust; it gives us with a sense of assurance and encourages bonding.


The majority of couples who seek counselling are looking for ways to communicate better, but before we even look at the use of words and the things we want to say, let’s put ourselves in the best space to receive this information. Look at each other. Make purposeful eye contact.


It won’t prevent a disagreement, but it’s the first step in positive communication.


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