Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better

Sound expert Julian Treasure says, “We are losing our listening… We don’t want oratory anymore, we now want sound bites. And the art of conversation is being replaced – dangerously, I think – by personal broadcasting”. Here he suggests five ways to re-tune our ears, and adjust the way we listen.

  1. silence – don’t distance yourself from noise, actively seek out silence
  2. the mixer – count how many channels of sound you can hear – practice pattern distinction
  3. savouring – enjoy mundane sounds
  4. move your listening position to the one that is most appropriate to the situation – alternate between filters (active / passive; reductive / expansive; critical / empathetic)
  5. practice RASA (Sanskrit for juice or essence).
    The acronym RASA stands for
    Receive – ‘pay attention to the person’
    Appreciate – ‘make little noises like “hmm,” “oh,” “okay”‘
    Summarize – ‘the word “so” is very important in communication’
    Ask – ‘ask questions afterward’

Listening is on my agenda for many reasons this week:

  • Had an interesting personal encounter with someone who was too involved in his own situation to tune in to others. That reminded me that there are many things that may inhibit listening skills.
  • Took part in a professional development workshop at ELTABB on the teacher’s physical presence (including Amy Cuddy’s body language life hacks), which focused on the broadcasting side of the ‘teaching body’, and how the class will respond to it. That was quite interesting, but necessarily reduced what actually goes on in teacher-student interaction, and made me more aware of the subtle give and take we use across all channels of communication.
  • Preparing another presentation workshop for Friday, and will be incorporating receptive skills training.

These are some of the various ‘filters’ that I connect to a listening task:

    • listen for content as if you had to learn and remember for an exam
    • listen for material as if you had to write an article for the general public
    • listen for scientific value – would you fund this speaker’s research?
    • listen for engagement / entertainment value – would you choose to listen to this speaker if you were free to choose between reading and listening to the live presentation? Is the speaker telling the story well?
    • listen as a coach (empathic) or critic (critical) – what makes for appropriate and constructive criticism from each of these positions of listening?

      This has proven to be a productive exercise, as learners take it in turns to listen to each presenter through these filters, giving different kinds of feedback as a result. This more holistic, content- and person-focused approach makes the presenters and listeners work harder than if they focused ‘only’ on, say, body language But I also give them more standard tasks, such as listen/watch for specific aspects of presentation techniques:

      • voice pitch and volume / projection
      • body language open/closed
      • movements eloquent / congruent
      • eye contact
      • count use of fillers like and, so, then, uhm

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      Anne

      Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

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