The Art of Listening
Listening can make the world a better place
A tricky exercise to start with: What are you hearing around you while reading this?
If you are in an office like mine, then you hear the on and off pressing of the keys on the keyboard, the frantic clicks of the mouse and the collective roar of the scrollers – a layer of sounds with laugher, seriousness, excitement, command, humming, the mini jet engine-like sound of a table fan and the occasional ringing of landline phones.
The trick was that this was an act of listening. Listening is different from hearing. Listening is getting aware of the space in which you reside. Hearing is what we do in our everyday lives, not being aware of the sounds we come across, just knowing that they exist.
We are losing our listening in today’s world, where our attention spans have shortened incredibly and we no longer have patience. Misunderstandings spawn out of a lack of listening – the outcome of which we see all around us either on a smaller or larger scale.
As a result, relationships end quite soon, the gap between our parents and us widens, our politicians do not understand the aspirations of our people; news of differences, war, violence and chaos are still common and on the rise.
According to a study conducted by the United States Department of Labor in 2002 and 2003, average workers spend 55% of their communication time listening and can retain only 25% after 48 hours.
Why are we losing our listening?
As we evolved, we invented ways of recording our voices, music and all forms of sounds. At present, the world is so noisy. The cacophony of noises around us makes us want to shut ourselves out from the rest of the world. It is tiring and adds to our stress.
We don’t seek oratory or lectures anymore; we rather want everything in sound bytes. Our communication has mostly turned electronic in the form of text and WhatsApp messages. Listening doesn’t feature in any of these.
We are becoming desensitised. Don’t hate loud-mouthed news anchors for what they do – screaming on TV! Yes, that’s what the media does to hold our extremely shortening attention. They constantly have to throw or scream words like ‘SENSATION’ or ‘SANSANI’, ‘EXPOSED’, ‘SHOCK’ and ‘SCANDAL’ to hold on to our attention.
It is hard to focus on the silence and the subtle. Listening is our access to understanding. Conscious listening creates understanding, peace and harmony.
Ways of improving our listening
Enjoy silence: Sometimes, it is necessary to listen to oneself – the inner voice, the gut feeling and what we want. Silence gives us that opportunity.
Differentiating patterns: The exercise we started with in this article. The sounds around us come in different pitches, volumes and patterns – be it in a crowded street, a forest or near the seashore.
Creating a rhythm: Another way to appreciate various sounds, even if they are mundane in nature is by listening to them from the perspective of music. Every sound from the chirping of the birds to the ticking of a clock has a rhythm.
RASA: It is an acronym coined by the sound expert Julian Treasure. It stands for Receive – pay attention to the person; Appreciate – making noises of approval like ‘hmm’, ‘ohh’, ‘ok’; Summarise – the word ‘so’ is very important in communication and Ask – asking questions afterwards.
Listening is a powerful and attractive tool. It makes the person feel wanted, loved and appreciated. Only if our politicians went to all the communities listening to peoples’ aspirations and dreams, things would have been so different.
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