The motivational value of listening during intimate and difficult conversations

Netta Weinstein, Guy Itzchakov, Nicole Legate

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Outcomes of conversations, including those dealing with controversial, deeply personal, or threatening disclosures, result not only from what is said but also from how listeners receive these messages. This article integrates the motivational framework of self-determination theory (SDT) and the expanding literature on interpersonal listening to explore the reasons why high-quality listening is so impactful during these conversations. We describe why high-quality listening is a specific and distinguishable autonomy-supportive motivational strategy, and argue that there is much to gain by considering that listening can satisfy basic psychological needs, in particular for autonomy and relatedness. We argue that SDT can help explain why high-quality listening is effective, especially in reducing defensiveness, bridging divides, and motivating change. The discussion focuses on ways motivation science can build more effective interventions for behavioral change by harnessing listening as an interpersonal strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12651
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Social and Personality Psychology Compass published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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