We are losing our listening.
60% of our communication is listening (although some may argue that they know others who talk 100% of the time), but we generally only retain 25% of what we hear.
Listening can be defined as making meaning from sound. It is a mental process of extraction and we have many techniques to achieve this. A few ways are:
- Pattern Recognition: We recognize patterns to distinguish noise from the signal, especially our name.
- Differencing: We listen to differences and we discount sounds that remain the same.
- Filters: Most of us are unconscious of these filters, but they actually create our reality in a way because they tell us what we are paying attention to. They can be culture, language, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, or intentions.
But we are still losing our listening. First of all, we invented ways of recording — first writing, then audio recording and now video recording as well. The premium on accurate and careful listening has simply disappeared. Secondly, the world is now so noisy. With such a harsh mixture of sounds in the world, both visually and auditory, it is hard to listen. It is tiring to listen. Many people take refuge in headphones, but they turn big, public spaces like this, shared soundscapes, into millions of tiny, little personal sound bubbles. In this scenario, nobody’s listening to anybody. We are also becoming impatient. We don’t want oratory anymore, we want sound bites. And the art of conversation is being replaced — dangerously, I think — by personal broadcasting. This is a serious problem that we’re losing our listening. This is not trivial. Because listening is our access to understanding. Conscious listening always creates understanding.
So here are 5 ways to get better at listening:
3 minutes of silence can recalibrate and reset your ears so that you can once again hear what quiet is.
When sitting in a noisy environment, listen to how many channels of sound you can hear. How many individual sounds in this mix am I listening to? You can do this practice anywhere, at a lake or coffeehouse. It’s a great exercise to improve the quality of your listening
Enjoy mundane sounds. For example, the tumble of the dryer. It’s a waltz. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three. Mundane sounds can be really interesting if you pay attention. It’s a hidden choir that is around us all the time.
4. Changing Listening Positions
This is probably the most important of all of these, if you just take one thing away. This is listening positions – the idea that you can move your listening position to what’s appropriate to what you’re listening to. This is playing with the previously mentioned filters. It’s starting to play with them as levers, to get conscious about them and to move to different places. These are some of the listening positions that you can use. There are many. Have fun with it.
- Active / Passive
- Reductive / Expansive
- Critical / Empathetic
RASA is a Sanskrit work for “juice” or “essence” and will act as an acronym for what to do while listening to another.
- R = Receive: pay attention to the person
- A = Appreciate: making little noises like “hmm”, “oh”, “okay”
- S = Summarize:
- A = Ask: Ask questions afterward
“Every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully – connected in space and in time to the physical world around us, connected in understanding to each other, not to mention spiritually connected, because every spiritual path I know of has listening and contemplation at its heart.” – Julian Treasure
To hear a full lecture on this topic by Julian Treasure, watch this quick video from TED