In a passionate talk, Julian Treasure argues that we as a society are losing our ability to listen accurately. Conscious listening, as Julian defines it, is making meaning from sounds by various means of extraction (e.g. pattern recognition, differencing, filtering, etc.). He names a variety of sources which contribute to our loss including: the prevalence of recording media; a noisier environment; a growing impatience for information (i.e. prefer sound bites over entire interviews); popularity of personal broadcasting (i.e. replacing conversations); a desensitized public in which shocking headlines rather than subtle/understated news receive notice.
To reverse this trend Julian Treasure offers 5 ways to listen better:
1. Be silent for just 3 minutes a day to reset your ears to hear quietness again
2. Be aware in noisy environment and see how many individual sounds you can identify
3. Savour and enjoy mundane sounds (e.g. tumble dryer, airplanes)
4. Use filters to determine what kind of listening/response is appropriate (i.e. active/passive; reductive/expansive; critical/empathetic)
5. Follow a mnemonic device when listening: RASA–RECEIVE; APPRECIATE; SUMMARIZE; ASK
Julian also suggests a more permanent solution would be to teach conscious listening in schools, and I couldn’t agree more. Why isn’t conscious listening explicitly taught in schools? Instead we learn how to listen through negative reinforcement/punishments–we get detention when we talk while the teacher is talking. Or we misunderstand financial advice and we lose money.
Instead of mitigating the consequences of not listening, we should be incorporating conscious listening in our daily lives and building a habit of it while we’re young. We should encourage students to listen to each other and to fully understand a situation in context before reacting. Furthermore empathy should be taught alongside listening to develop a “we-driven” mentality rather than a “me-driven” mentality. By teaching the next generation to listen and to be empathetic, they will have a better chance at creating an understanding world, and ultimately a more peaceful world.
Watch Julian’s talk here: