Sunday, 28 October 2012

Be all ears

Many people take refuge in headphones, but they turn big, public spaces like this, shared soundscapes, into millions of tiny, little personal sound bubbles.(Julian Treasure @TEDGlobal 2011)

“We spend roughly 60 percent of our communication time listening, but we’re not very good at it. We retain just 25 percent of what we hear.”
(Julian Treasure @TEDGlobal 2011)

I guess I could copy/paste videos and a couple of quotes to make my task easier this morning, but I need to explain the point I see in it all. I've been writing a lot about learning styles and understanding oneself so this one could understand others, but this time I'm about to be a little more specific.

Everyone reading this blog know by now that our learning styles influence the way we communicate with others, and for teachers that means that their learning styles influence their teaching styles and perception of what's happening in a classroom. "You're not listening to me!!" and any of its variants in any of the world languages is probably one of the most commonly heard utterances (not just in a classroom). But what does it really mean?

I gave a presentation recently and started it with: "Could you take a piece of paper now and make a table like the one on the screen?" and someone said "What makes you think we've got paper and pen?" A brilliant point. What does make me think people bring papers and pens to presentations?, thought the person with a special notebook just for presentations and a particular appreciation for good stationery. Starting from our own habits and values, can lead us to believe someone is not responding to us in a desired way. If someone's rhythmically tapping their pen during a lesson and looking out of a window - it says nothing on how attentive they are. I know a person who closes their eyes during meetings - to the horror of all attending, but trust me they're one of the best listeners I know. They're remembering and analyzing what's being said to amazing detail and phenomenal precision, while some people may be lead to conclude they're dozing off...

At one point Julian Treasure in his TEDtalk mentions we've been  losing our ability to listen because we've come up with ways of recording what we've heard. My first response is that I think I listen better because I'm recording what I hear, but a part of me does wonder if my use of writing has made me a lazy listener. Furthermore, listening is at the very core of empathy. If we want to help our kids empathize better, we need to help them really listen and also be good listeners, in order to give them the experience of being listened to.

There's so much noise we're living in. Everything is screaming at us in order to get our attention, no wonder the kids scream as much as they do. So take a moment to listen. The video on busting the Mehrabian myth is here to point to the relevance of words themselves in any spoken discourse. The TEDtalk video is here to remind us about the importance of listening and to help us listen better. Make the moment especially silent.

Vivaldi is here to greet the snow and give you a chance to try out what Mr Treasure speaks about - How many channels can you hear? How many filters can you use?

Listen well to what's being said, then you'll understand what's not. 
(from the cover of an old Morning Glory notebook. ;))
All my love,


  1. Great post! ;) The quote at the end of the post seems relevant to psychotherapy where you're trained to listen to whatever is not being said as actually the main thing a person is trying to communicate, no matter how contradictory this may seem at first. It's sometimes an extremely demanding task though! :)

  2. It's also something we've been taught this summer - not to react to what's on the surface, but try to look beyond. :) Very demanding- and intriguing at the same time: I'd like to know more. ;)