5 Ways To Listen Better
So…much later than I promised in the first article, I at last came round to writing the last part of the 3 articles about how sound influences our lives.
Due to our lifestyles, we are losing our listening. We may spend about 60% of our communication time listening, but we are not very good at it. Of that 60% that we hear, we only retain 25% of what we hear.
To listen is to make meaning from sound.
It is a mental process and a process of extraction.
To do this we use different techniques.
One of the techniques is pattern recognition. For instance, if you are in a noisy room and you say someone’s name, they will probably pay attention. We use patterns to distinguish between useless noise and signals, especially the pattern of our name.
Another technique we use is called differencing. If you leave a monotonous noise on for some time, you would cease to hear it. We listen for differences and we ignore sounds that remain the same.
We also have a whole range of filters of which most people are entirely unconscious of. The purpose of these filters is to reduce a bunch of sound down to what we pay attention to. They shape our reality because they tell us what we’re paying attention to right now.
Sound also places us in sound and time. If you close your eyes, you are still aware of the size of the room from the reverberation and the bouncing of the sound off the surfaces. You are also aware of how many people are around you because they make micro-noises which you receive and interpret. Sound places us in time because sound always has time embedded in it. One can trace the flow of time from past to future by following the sounds relating to the time. Jean-Luc Nancy said that “Sonority is time and meaning.”
So why are we losing our listening? There are a lot of reasons. Firstly, we invented ways of recording through writing, then audio recording and now video recording. This means that it isn’t important that we have to listen accurately anymore. Secondly, the world has become incredibly noisy. With all this auditory and visual input and cacophony, it’s just really hard to listen. Many people use earphones to break big, noisy public spaces down to millions of small, personal sound bubbles. In this scenario, nobody is listening to anybody. Thirdly, the speed of our daily lives has made us impatient. We don’t want long speeches; we want only the short version. The art of conversation is being replaced by personal broadcasting. We are becoming desensitized. The media has to use screaming headlines to get our attention. And that makes us unable to pay attention the subtle, understated and quiet.
This last factor plays a big role in how we are losing our listening. Listening is our access to understanding. Conscious listening always creates understanding. And only without conscious listening can this degeneration of our listening happen. This will lead to a world where we don’t listen to each other and that’s very scary!
Julian Treasure recommends 5 simple exercises to improve your conscious listening. Number one is silence. Just 3 minutes a day of silence is enough to reset and recalibrate your ears so you can hear the quiet again. If you are unable to find silence, go for quiet.
Number two is the mixer exercise. When you are in a place with a lot of noise, try to distinguish how many individual channels of sound there is. You can also do it in a quiet place like a lake. How many birds can I hear? Where are they? And so on.
The third exercise is called savouring. You must learn to savour mundane sounds. The sound of a tumble dryer can turn into a waltz. Mundane sounds can become interesting and soothing if you let them. And they are around us all the time.
The fourth exercise is probably the most important and this is listening positions. You are able to move your listening position to what’s appropriate to what you’re listening to. You are essentially playing with your filters. Play with them as you would with levers. Become conscious of them and move them to different places.
The last exercise is an acronym. You can use this in listening and communication. The acronym is RASA. RASA stands for Receive (pay attention to the person), Appreciate (make little affirmative noises like “hmm,” “oh,” “okay”), Summarize (the word “so” is very important) and Ask (ask questions afterward).