My view of human nature is that we all hold it together in different ways – and that’s okay, and we just have to take it easy with each other, knowing that we’re all these incredibly fragile beings. —Alain De Botton

We all have a voice in our head. The small voice tells us what to do, how to be, and how we should feel. This voice can have a powerful influence on our lives, but it is not always good. The problem with this voice is that it is often based on our fears and insecurities. We listen to it because we are afraid of making mistakes or looking ridiculous. We follow his advice because we want to feel safe. But in doing so, we often end up missing opportunities and relationships that could make our lives happier and more fulfilling.

Guidance by body signals

The solution is simple: learn to listen to your heart instead of your head. When you do this, you find yourself making better decisions and seizing opportunities that would otherwise have seemed too risky or uncertain. You will also care less about what other people think and more about what makes you happy. So the next time you’re faced with a decision, ask yourself: what would my heart tell me to do? Chances are it’s the right choice. Although it may sound like the language of poets, it is actually part of what is called interoception, a cognitive-affective process of people’s ability to perceive subtle bodily changes. Studies have shown that bodily signals, especially those from the heart, offer good guidance about potential choices.

However, it is important to listen to your heart and that of your partner if you are in a relationship. You must be able to communicate effectively and compromise when necessary. If you don’t listen to each other, it will be difficult to stay connected and resolve conflicts. When we listen with our heart, we are able to truly connect with our partners on a deeper level and understand their feelings and needs. It can be hard to do, especially when we’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, but it’s definitely worth the effort. When we truly listen to our partners, we build stronger, more intimate relationships based on trust, respect, and understanding.

4 ways to respond to others

Responding to others is something we always do, but we may not be aware of the different ways we can respond to something meaningful to our partner. This is listening to the heart of our partner. When they’re excited about something, we should be too. Of course, when they are upset, we must listen to them with compassion. But we have to be especially attentive when they have something exciting to say to us. The science of relationships has determined that there are four main ways of responding that underlie our interactions in response to good news from our partner. Only one strengthens the relationship.

The four are called passive-constructive, active-destructive, passive-destructive, and the one we should all be looking for is active-constructive.1 Each of these has its effects on the person being answered and on the relationship.

The passive-constructive response is when we neither support nor oppose what the other person is saying. For example, if your partner says they bought a new car, we might say, “That’s cool.” The disappointing response can dampen your partner’s enthusiasm. In the long run, it may not seem like sharing the good news with you is worth it.

The active-destructive response is when we directly contradict or argue with what the other person is saying. For example, if your partner tells you that he bought a new car, you might say, “You don’t need a new car, the old one was fine.

The passive-destructive response is when we agree with what the other person is saying but add nothing positive. For example, if your partner says they bought a new car, we might say, “Yeah, I guess that’s fine.” Or we could spoof their good news with our own: “I just got a promotion!”

But the active-constructive response (ACR) happens when you listen to your partner’s heart. Their joy becomes your joy. If they tell you they bought a new car, you’ll want to say, “What kind did you buy?” When is it coming? You must be thrilled!” ACR’s goal is to relive their experience and show your enthusiasm for their heart’s desire.

When couples can do this, they do more than celebrate life together; they bring out the best in each other. Studies also show that couples who engage in an active-constructive response cultivate a shared reality,2 the experience of having an inner state that is believed to be shared by others. It’s arguably, but probably, one of the best feelings to have in a relationship. That’s what we look for in a partnership. As the English poet John Keats put it more eloquently, “Two souls with one thought, two hearts beating in unison.”

It’s so important to be in tune with your own emotions and feelings, and it’s also important to be able to listen and understand your partner’s emotions and feelings. If you can do these two things, you will be able to create a strong and lasting relationship based on love and mutual understanding.