How to listen
How many conversations have you had today? How many TV shows have you watched or podcasts have you heard? Now, how much of what you heard do you remember? How much did you actually listen?
I know I have a problem listening a lot of the time. I “listen” to podcasts on my way to and from work but can’t even remember what they were about the following day. I forget to listen to my husband when he speaks. I lose track of what people are saying when I interview them. We all do these things, though some of us are worse than others. I don’t think I’m actually that bad, but I’m not the best. I could be better. We all could.
Here’s the thing about listening: it is crucial to your career success. We know that “people skills” are for employers by far the most desired attributes in potential hires, and that listening is one of the most important people skills. We also know that “active listening” was listed as a critical skill for 9 out of 10 of the most in-demand jobs in a recent report. You must have listening skills.
If I were talking, you’d have tuned out already wouldn’t you?
We are losing our ability to listen, according to sound consultant Julian Treasure, who says we spend roughly 60% of our communication time listening but that we retain just 25% of what we hear. He says in a Ted talk that this is happening for several reasons, among them the noise levels to which we’re constantly subjected, the way information is expected to be presented in sound-bytes, and the rise of recording technology (I, for example, often find myself multi-tasking while interviewing people, and forgetting to pay attention to what they’re saying because I can just listen to the recording later).
“The premium on accurate and careful listening has simply disappeared,” he says.
In that talk Treasure also shares 5 exercises and tools you can use to improve your own conscious listening. These are:
“Just three minutes a day of silence is a wonderful exercise to reset your ears and to recalibrate so that you can hear the quiet again. If you can’t get silence go for quiet. That’s absolutely fine.”
2. Something Treasure calls “The mixer”
If you are in a noisy environment where sound is coming from all directions, listen for how many distinct channels of sounds you can hear. I do this for fun by listening for specific instruments in musical recordings. Symphonies are good.
3. Something Treasure calls “savouring”
This means “enjoying mundane sounds.” For an example, he shows how he turns the sound of his clothes dryer into a waltz.
4. Listening positions
This is “the idea that you can move your listening position to what’s appropriate to what you’re listening to.” I had some trouble grasping this one but he means that there are many different “positions” from which we listen: active, passive, expansive, reductive, judgmental. Treasure suggests playing with these “positions.” More on that here and in the Ted talk posted below.
It’s apparently the Sanskrit word for “juice” or “essence,” and an acronym for Receive (take in what you’re hearing), Appreciate (make listening noises like mmm hmmm), Summarize (recap with “so…”), Ask (ask questions).
Treasure says he believes that “every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully.”
That’s a beautiful thought.
And it will help you get a job, which is also nice.
Here’s Treasure’s Ted talk: