From the Master of Sound: 5 Ways to Be a Better Listener

Julian Treasure business sound expert

There is so much noise in our current world we have forgotten how to listen. 

Office noise is extremely damaging to productivity.

You are one-third as productive in open-plan offices as in quiet rooms. The Sound Agency

 I have the luxury of working from my home office most of the time. I love it. I have no music playing, there’s no television, my computer and iPhone are muted. All of my notifications are turned off. I don’t have colleagues popping in and out of my office throughout the day. To eliminate other sounds, I have on a set of noise cancelling headphones. Why? It’s because I’m so easily distracted. The more noise free I can make my work environment, the more productive I can be. It enhances my ability to concentrate.

We live and work in noisy environments that impact our ability to listen.

When I worked with the BOHAN agency in Nashville, Tennessee, our new business team had an office suite on the fifth floor which allowed us to have a dedicated space for business development. We weren’t roped into a lot of unecessary meetings and exposed to a lot of distractions found in most office environments. It was a very productive space for us.

Listening is a very important skill-set for those charged with agency new business.

According to Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business, we spend roughly 60% of our communication time on listening, but only retain about 25% of what we hear. We’re no longer good at listening.

Julian’s book was published in 2007. He has become an in-demand international speaker, and has several talks on the distinguished TED.com website. His presentations have been viewed an estimated 4 million times.

He points out how we are losing our ability to listen: 

  • We have the means to record. When I was in college I was able to record my class lectures and then transcribe them later. I could get by without being a good listener. We now use smartphones and tablets to record sessions at conferences and seminars allowing us to multi-task when people are speaking since we can always watch the recorded sessions later. So, it seems that good listening skills aren’t as important any longer.
  • The world is a noisy place, especially for travelers like Julian and myself. When I’m traveling, I see people taking refuge from the noise with their ear buds and headphones to create “our personal sound bubbles” as Julian calls them. He forewarns, “…nobody is listening to anybody … the art of conversation is being replaced by personal broadcasting. We don’t want oratory anymore, we want sound bites.”  He points out that, ” … nobody’s listening to anybody.”
  • We’ve become impatient. There is less and less conversation taking place with the ability to text, Tweet and provide brief social media status updates.  Julian states, “our media has to scream at us with these kinds of headlines in order to get our attention. And that means it’s harder for us to pay attention to the quiet, the subtle, the understated.”

Why should losing our listening be considered a serious problem? Julian says,Because listening is our access to understanding. Conscious listening always creates understanding and only without conscience listening can these things happen — a world where we don’t listen to each other at all, is a very scary place indeed.”

Julian shares five simple exercises to improve your own conscious listening:

  1. Silence. He advocates spending just 3 minutes a day in total silence so that you can, “hear quiet again!”
  2. Listen to the “mix” of noise. Whether at a social event, coffee bar, outdoors in the woods or, as I like to do, on the lake, listen to how many channels you can hear. I was amazed at the different sounds I picked up recording a six second Vine video from the back deck of our yard early one morning. Birds chirping in the trees, sound from a water fountain, the wind russtling the leaves of the bamboo. It showcased how many sounds I was missing.
  3. Savoring. Day-to-day sounds can be interesting. From the ticking of the mantle clock to the tumbling of the dryer.
  4. Filters. Julian says that listening is a mental process and it’s a process of extraction using filters that we unconsciously develop for what we pay attention to.
  5. The acronym RASA. Julian uses this acronym as a tool for listening. RASA = Receive, pay attention to the person; Appreciate, making little noises like “hmm, “okay”; Summarize, “so” is very important in communication; Ask, ask questions afterward. Be engaged.

Julian believes that, “every person needs to listen consciously in order to live fully.” Listening is a skill set that can be taught. The following is a brief, 7 minute video of Julian’s Ted Talk, “5 Ways to Listen Better” that I think you will find helpful.

 

 Take the Poll: Open cubicle vs. private office. Which is better?

How to connect with Julian Treasure:

 

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.

Comments

  1. Great article. I have to agree, it’s rare you have a conversation with someone who really intently listens to what you’re saying and then responds with a question. Ad agencies can stand out from the crowd by ensuring their client service teams pay close attention to the client and let them talk 70% of the time. As someone said ‘be interested not interesting’.

  2. Craig Lindberg says:

    This underscores why a critical tool and fundamental cornerstone of any agency or other work group, is the low tech Client Contact Report (CCR) One it ensures accountability of what is discussed which drives meaningful dialogue plus addresses recall and selective hearing issues. It also provides a document for reference and comment to ensure collaboration. Listening well is an art that goes hand in hand with asking good questions.

  3. Thanks Jenny!

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