Portable technology, from the Walkman to the iPod and smartphones, have made listening to people and to our environment an increasingly tiring task. In addition to ubiquitous digital devices, the persistent noise of our society has made listening even more difficult.
As a result, in a couple of decades we have lost the ability to hear, that our brain had shaped in tens of thousands of years in the course of our evolution.
Especially among the youngest, many people have simply thrown in the towel, retreating into their own cocoons of personal soundscapes via their headphones.
In the past, even in a noisy environment, our brain was much more effective in applying techniques to extricate specific sounds from a cacophony to determine what they hear. For example by using:
- “pattern recognition” to isolate familiar sounds;
- “differencing” the brain capability to block out “white or pink noise” and focus on sounds that change;
- “filtering,” applied unconsciously based on culture, language and value.
As for other abilities — so important for our personal and professional life — challenged by habits that make them less and less relevant, to eventually disappear, we have to run for cover and recover before the process becomes irreversible.
Once a day:
- Take off your headphones.
- Text less and increase the frequency of spoken conversations.
- Choose to listen to two minutes of silence to "reset" your ears.
- Whenever you find yourself in a noisy environment, pay attention and try to isolate discrete sounds and focus on each one.
When engaged in a conversation, keep it to the essence and apply the “RASA” principle; Rasa is the Sanskrit word for “essence,” suggested as mnemonic in his TED Talk by Julian Treasure ￼￼— chairman of The Sound Agency, which advises on the importance of environmental acoustics and best practices in listening:
- “Receive” (pay attention while you listen).
- “Appreciate” (use small verbalizations to acknowledge that you are listening).
- “Summarize” (recap what you heard).
- “Ask” (pose questions).
Take these simple habits and in a few weeks you will become a better listener, and better connect and understand people around you.