FIVE WAYS TO LISTEN BETTER
It’s relatively easy to think of ways that we can practice our speaking skills. We can stand in front of a mirror and rehearse. We record ourselves and play it back. We can visualize ourselves giving a speech. We can practice in front of a friend and solicit their feedback. But what about all those listening skills from the previous page? How can we practice those skills and our listening in general?
Watch this 2011 TED Talk by Julian Treasure where he argues that we are “losing our listening.” He gives a useful overview of the various ways we “make meaning from sound” and how advancements in communication technology and constant media distractions have lowered the premium on being good listeners. He also provides a few exercises that one can use to help strengthen their listening skills.
Reflection Question: Julian introduces five exercises to help improve your own conscious listening – silence, the mixer, savoring, listening positions, and RASA. Try one of the exercises Julian lists at the end of his talk. Which one did you choose and what was the experience like?
I tried savoring. It was amazing to see how many sounds we simply drown out. I heard the air conditioner turning on and off, and people walking in the halls of my building. I find that I am oblivious to these sounds most of the time (everything is louder when I am trying to sleep). Attending to and reveling in all the sounds around me, the LIFE all around me, I somehow felt a bit more connected which is often hard in this region of the country.
I tried the mixer for 2 minutes. In that time I heard my 5 year old singing the songs of the movie Madagascar 3. I also heard the movie itself playing along with Disney channel playing in another room and the washing machine. That is a lot, but I was still able to focus. I would love to try the silence one, but with a toddler in the morning that is not going to happen lol.
I tried silence. I gave myself three minutes silence everyday, and I found I am getting more and more peaceful. I took a deep breath and let go all my “troubles” and I found peace. I believe I listen better too. I made my students to do the three minute silence and they turned out listening better as well. Plus, I agree the presenter’s statement, “when we are around the noisy environment, we can still hear our names. We can recognize certain pattern”. I did a funny test. While my students are doing free explore, which was extremely noisy. I want to see what I should say to make them quiet right away. So, I shouted “ice cream!” The class become much quieter after the kids heard it. It was very interesting, because it made me to think what words I should choose to use while teaching to attract students’ attention.
It’s 4:14 in the morning. I’m sitting in silence. Listening…not savoring just listening. All I hear is the hum of the air conditioner upstairs. Are those crickets chirping or a cicada? I enjoy this quiet but find it hard to stay awake. (So, now it’s 7:30 am. I awake to post)
Im taking a moment to savor some of the different noises I can hear in my apartment — I can hear the neighbor across the hall practicing scales on the keyboard, I can hear the whirring and clicking of the central airconditioning, I can hear some voices from the hallway, and some indiscriminate noises from above — some furniture being moved, some doors opening and shutting. I enjoy quiet, and I take what I can get, though I don’t often take time to savor it. I often work in low-noise environments or else I find myself distracted very easily.
I took the opportunity to sit in silence in my apartment. Much like Jerron’s experience describing the experience turned into a mixer. As I sit I can here the AC unit and the typing of the keys on the keyboard as I type. I can hear the faint hum of the computer and the noises of cars going by on the street. I can also hear my neighbor banging on the wall, sounds like they are hanging up a picture of some sort. I can also hear the tick tock if I’m really still enough.
Today while at the restaurant Fridays I tried the mixer exercise. It was extremely loud in the facility during the lunch hour. However, I tried to zone in on all the noise I heard in about 3 minutes. I overheard several conversations- at one table it was about six children so I heard crying-the parent telling the child its ok to be sleepy, I heard music playing, I heard laughing, glasses being hit together, the sound of ice machine, some type of blender from the bar, silverware hitting the plates, foot steps from people walking by the tables, the sound from the sizzling frying pan of the fajitas ,waiters asking is everything ok and chairs being slid from the floor. These were just a few of the things I heard while in the restaurant. It was very difficult to practice on tuning in on one particular thing.
I’m out in the country so today I listened in silence while hiking along the top of a mountain ridge. Here’s what I heard:
the thump of my boots against rocks
snapping of sticks under my feet
the rustle of trees as a breeze blew through them
Being silent is familiar to me. Most of the time I prefer silence. I can drive for hours in a car in silence. This week I hiked for 7 hours in the woods without seeing anyone. I find silence very comfortable and restoring.
I am at Busboys and Poets and tried ‘The Mixer’ exercise. I listened carefully for 5 minutes and heard the following channels:
– typing of girl next to me
– conversation of girls across the table
– conversation of hostess and people entering restaurant
– keys shaking
– ice in glasses
– conversation of servers at the bar
– music played over the loud speaker
It felt un-natural to sit in silence and listen to the noises around me, but the exercise helped me concentrate and listen to the sounds around me, identify what I hear, and focus.
I tried listening in silence. It change into some what of a mixer. Although I must admit it was a peaceful mixer. It was relaxing and all I heard was bird chirping and the wind for the AC unit. I honestly started to go back to sleep.
In the classroom, I often like to utilize the mixer and attempt to hear individual channels of communication among students. This can work for classroom management, but it also helps monitor another educational philosophy – students remember what they actually think about.
Last week, I had to remind several students that their conversations should not be on what to wear during spirit week. Instead, it should have been about how the Civil War changed the population dynamics of DC.
Other sounds included students, a radio, hall noise, and my co-teacher talking with other groups of students.
RASA is pretty much what I was explaining that I already do in my comments on module 5.4.
I tried to use RASA when speaking to one of my students. My 7th graders – I think I’ll just say all 7th graders – always seem to have a thousand things going on and sometimes I find it really difficult to really listen to everything that is going on. I sometimes need to step back and remind myself that even though I’ve listened to (what seems like) a thousand problems in a day, for this student, it’s the first. The summarizing and asking components of this were really helpful in walking away from the situation with a thorough understanding of what the student needed for help – sometimes it was really nothing and they just needed someone to listen.
The mixer seemed like the most interesting to me so I sat outside my office to listen for a few minutes. Here’s what I heard:
• metal being loaded into a truck
• people playing on the practice field
• leave rustling in the wind
• field hockey stick hitting a ball
• dead leaves in the wind
• people talking
• foot steps
I thought it was very peaceful to just take time to sit and listen to the world around me instead of always being a participant.
I am currently in the Dav and just tried the mixer. I hear the following noises:
(2) Beans being crushed
(3) The moving of chairs
(5) The clanking of spoons
(6) The barista announcing drinks.
Really, the list could go on. In directly listening I realize that I actually do tune a lot out and I truly need to be more aware.
Daniel Knoll – I JUST tried the 3 minutes of silence sitting in my apartment and here’s what I noticed.
1. I have noisy neighbors
2. 3 minutes is kind of a long time
3. My overhead light makes a lot of noise
4. 3 minutes is not a very long time
5. I feel much more relaxed now
I really enjoyed this Ted talk! I tried initially to experience silence. As the speaker noted, this was very hard so I had to settle for quiet. The initial challenge I faced was not to think too much or too rapidly which seemed almost as much of a distraction as the subtle noises I heard. What really impressed me was how, after managing to slow my brain down a bit; I was able to move from just sitting in silence to the “mixer”. The small noises I could pick up—the pages turning in a nearby book, the scratching of a pencil, my air-conditioning unit—were all distinct and created my listening surrounding. As soon as a new noise started—my refrigerator trying to cool itself or a neighbor moving a chair—became unbelievably apparent. It was a really great exercise in appreciating silence and noticing my sound environment.
It was a joy just to listen to this Ted talk this evening. I am extremely over-stimulated at school, and I think this is an actual epidemic in the city. To the point that when it is quiet or relaxed, the students often complain of it being too “dry” and they threaten to fall asleep. “So” I need to teach them to listen, no? Will add it to list. I often savor the time I have in the copy room when I am alone and taking care of an extremely mundane yet crucial task: making copies galore. The copy machine has amazing sounds: rhythmic, meter-driven, I often find my thoughts grooving into the patterns of the machine. In these moments, I picture myself as a taller Bjork, creating songs from workaday world. It’s a brief moment of fantasy, and savoring sounds took me there.
I chose Silence, but it turned out to be more of a Mixer and Savoring. My house has several sounds from the myriad of electrical appliances. The trees on my property and in the park across the street have a wide variety of birds. I love their sweet chirps (i can’t distinguish them however).
RASA seems like a wonderful acronym for interacting with the communication of a colleague or adult. I try RASA with my granddaughter who is six months old when I am with her. Her smile and other sounds tell me that it works.
As I write this, I am also ‘savoring’ my tumble dryer. I actually became quite good at ‘savoring’ noises from a young age- My parents used to put me to bed in their bedroom (which was right next to the kitchen) when they ran the dishwasher because I liked the soothing noise to put me to bed. I have been famously quoted in my family for being really excited when we stayed in a cabin on the ocean because it sounded just like the dishwasher 🙂
I used RASA during a commonplace conversation to practice the steps that Julian mentions. I received the information and paid attention using eye contact and receiving gestures. I took a moment to appreciate the information and let it marinate. Then used the word “so” like he suggested to begin my summary and then asked a follow-up question to clarify and show my interest in the conversation. Though I practiced the steps during a simple conversation, I feel more equipped to use the skills during a conversation of depth and magnitude whenever the conversation arises.
I listening to Julian’s talk while in my bedroom. I have a leaky faucet, a window facing the street, and a fan that is constantly rattling. Sometime I have problems sleeping and feel like this cacophony is just too much noise. By listening to the different elements of the “mix” and savoring the steady whirring of the fan, I can fall right to sleep!