5 Ways to Listen Better

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Julian Treasure, a sound consultant, shares a brief intro to anyone who feels that our modern life has impinged on their ability to listen well. Most of the time, even me, failed to listen since we might be just hearing to reply. And that’s wrong. Remember that when we become a better listener, we will be able to connect and build better interpersonal understanding with those around us.


5 Ways to Listen Better – Pin

  • We are losing the ability to listen.
  • Modern recording devices have invalidated the need to listen
  • Modern technology has reduced the frequency of spoken conversations.
  • People tend to retreat into their own individual soundscapes via their headphones.
  • In loud environments, our brain can use several techniques to allow us to isolate individual sounds and help you to listen better.
  • Use five exercises to improve your listening skills.
  • First, immerse ourselves in silence for three minutes each day to cultivate an appreciation for quietness.
  • Second, in a noisy environment, isolate and focus on discrete sounds.
  • Third, concentrate on the rhythm and music of everyday objects, such as a coffee grinder.
  • Fourth, adopt a “listening position” that best suits each scenario.
  • Fifth, use the RASA technique – “receive, appreciate, summarize and ask” – to optimize listening.

5 Ways to Listen Better – Key Message

While people spend some 60% of their “communication time” listening, humans retain, on average, just 25% of what they hear. However, even in a noisy environment, the brain can apply various techniques to extricate specific sounds from a cacophony.

For example, by using “pattern recognition,” a person can isolate familiar sounds, such as the utterance of his or her name, in a noisy setting. By using “differencing,” the brain can block out static “pink noise” and focus on sounds that change.

We are also able to unconsciously apply various “filters” – according to “culture, language, values,” and so on – which determine what they hear.

“Let’s define listening as making meaning from sound.”

French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy said, “Sonority is time and meaning.” But despite the gravity of sound to human perceptions of reality, several factors have led to the decline of listening. The rise of print, audio and video recording tools has diminished the need to listen actively. Moreover, the persistent noise of modern society has made listening difficult and tiring.

New communications technologies have reduced the frequency of spoken conversations, and individuals detach from “shared soundscapes” to listen to their headphones. The erosion of listening proficiency is problematic because “listening is our access to understanding.” 


Five exercises can strengthen your listening skills:

1. Silence

Just three minutes of silence every day can help “to reset your ears” and let you “hear the quiet.”

2. The mixer

In a noisy environment, isolate discrete sounds and focus on each one.

3. Savouring

Pay attention to the rhythm of everyday objects, like a coffee grinder.

4. Listening positions

Decide which listening position – “active or passive, reductive or expansive, critical or empathetic” – to assume in a given situation.


Rasa, a Sanskrit word for “essence,” and its letters provide an apt mnemonic for best practices in listening:

  • “Receive” (pay attention),
  • “appreciate” (make small verbalizations to acknowledge that you are listening),
  • “summarize” (recap what you heard) and
  • “ask” (pose questions).


“A world where we don’t listen to each other at all is a very scary place indeed.”

Listening skills should feature in school curricula. Educators must create programs that will “transform the world in one generation to a conscious listening world – a world of connection, a world of understanding and a world of peace.”

Further Readings


Julian Treasure’s Book


Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

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