In our louder and louder world, says sound expert Julian Treasure, “We are losing our listening.” In this short, fascinating talk, Treasure, author of Sound Business shares five ways to re-tune your ears for conscious listening — to other people and the world around you.
Listening as making meaning from sound. It’s a mental process, and it’s a process of extraction
We are losing our listening. We spend roughly 60 percent of our communication time listening, but we’re not very good at it. We retain just 25 percent of what we hear.
One of them is pattern recognition. We recognize patterns to distinguish noise from signal, and especially our name. Differencing is another technique we use. If I left this pink noise on for more than a couple of minutes, you would literally cease to hear it. We listen to differences, we discount sounds that remain the same.
Sound places us in space and in time. If you close your eyes right now in this room,you’re aware of the size of the room from the reverberation and the bouncing of the sound off the surfaces. And you’re aware of how many people are around you because of the micro-noises you’re receiving. And sound places us in time as well, because sound always has time embedded in it.
Why are we losing our listening?
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, with this cacophony going on visually and auditorily, it’s just hard to listen;it’s tiring to listen. Many people take refuge in headphones, but they turn big, public spaces like this,shared soundscapes, into millions of tiny, little personal sound bubbles. In this scenario, nobody’s listening to anybody.
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.
Second, I call this the mixer. So even if you’re in a noisy environment like this — and we all spend a lot of time in places like this — listen in the coffee bar to 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 tumble dryer. (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.
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.