Julian Treasure guided the audience at a recent TED.com conference in the art of listening. I loved it; here are my excerpts. The video is here.
“…we’re losing our listening. Why did I say that? Well there are a lot of reasons for this.
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…it’s just hard to listen; it’s tiring to listen. Many people take refuge in headphones, but … in this scenario, nobody’s listening to anybody.
We’re 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. I don’t know how much listening there is … that means it’s harder for us to pay attention to the quiet, the subtle, the understated.
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. And only without conscious listening can these things happen — a world where we don’t listen to each other at all, is a very scary place indeed.
So I’d like to share with you five simple exercises, tools you can take away with you, to improve your own conscious listening.
The first one is silence. 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 absolute silence, go for quiet, that’s absolutely fine.
Second, I call this the mixer.
Even if you’re in a noisy environment…like a coffee bar, (ask yourself) how many channels of sound can I hear? How many individual channels in that mix am I listening to? You can do it in a beautiful place as well, like in a lake. How many birds am I hearing? Where are they? Where are those ripples? It’s a great exercise for improving the quality of your listening.
Third, this exercise I call savoring, and this is a beautiful exercise. It’s about enjoying mundane sounds.
This, for example, is my (clothes) dryer. It’s a waltz. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three. I love it. Or just try this one on for size. (Coffee grinder) Wow! So mundane sounds can be really interesting if you pay attention. I call that the hidden choir. It’s around us all the time.
The next exercise is probably the most important of all of these:
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 those filters. Do you remember, I gave you those filters at the beginning. It’s starting to play with them as levers, to get conscious about them and to move to different places.
These are just some of the listening positions, or scales of listening positions, that you can use. There are many. Have fun with that. It’s very exciting.
And finally, an acronym.
You can use this in listening, in communication. If you’re in any one of those roles — and I think that probably is everybody who’s listening to this talk — the acronym is RASA, which is the Sanskrit word for juice or essence. And RASA stands for
Receive, which means pay attention to the person;
Appreciate, making little noises like “hmm,” “oh,” “okay”;
Summarize, the word “so” is very important in communication; and
Ask, ask questions afterward.
Now sound is my passion, it’s my life. I wrote a whole book about it. So I live to listen. That’s too much to ask from most people. But I believe that 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…”