According to Julian Treasure, sound researcher and business consultant, we spend 60% of our communication time listening but retain just 25% of what we hear. Our ability to really listen is under siege by a deafening and chaotic world that makes listening both hard and tiring.
Modern tech is also making us lazy. “It’s making us impatient. We don’t want oratory anymore, we want sound bites. The art of conversation is being replaced with personal broadcasting. Media has to scream at us to get our attention. This means it’s harder to pay attention to the quiet, the subtle, the understated.”
This is a problem because conscious listening creates understanding, which not only makes you a more engaged human being, it makes you a better person and leader too.
Here are five exercises to becoming a better listener:
1. Sound of silence
Reset your ears to quiet or silence for just three minutes a day. Why? You’ll simply start hearing again.
2. Sound mixer
Noise comes in channels, so make a game of picking out how many sounds you can hear when ordering a coffee. If you’re outdoors, how many birds can you hear? Why? It will improve the quality of your listening.
3. Sound savouring
Enjoy mundane sounds like the rhythm of the washing machine. Why? Tapping into the hidden choir will make you more aware of the understated.
4. Listening positions
Play with your filters of values, culture, language, beliefs and intentions. Why? You might be surprised to find that what you’re hearing isn’t what you first perceived it to be.
- Receive — or pay attention to the person;
- Appreciate — try making little noises like ‘hmm’, ‘oh’, ‘okay’;
- Summarise — show you’re listening by summarising what you hear. ‘So’ is a golden word;
- Ask — ask questions afterwards to show you’ve listened and understood, or want to understand better if you don’t.