Are we losing our ability to listen?

Julian Treasure¬†spoke¬†at TED and one of the things he said made immense sense …” we are moving from an era of conversations to personal broadcasting” So true, isn’t it? We want the world to listen to what we are saying but we aren’t tuned into what the world’s response is. We have given up our silences for the continued presence of music or traffic or TV or the other distractions of urban life. It requires a trip to a hill station or a resort to actually experience the tranquility of silence. We’ve grown so used to the cacophony that we miss its absence. And most of the sounds we hear every day is man made. The doorbell. The ticking of the clock. The scrape of a chair against the floor. The clang of a steel vessel in the kitchen. The car horn. The air conditioner. The whirring of the fan. The whistle of the cooker. The slamming of a door. We hear gurgling brooks and birds only as background noises in pastoral films. I see young people sitting opposite each other in restaurants and they aren’t speaking to each other. They are either looking at their mobile screens or talking to someone else on the phone. What happened to those long, languorous conversations where you got to know your friends better in person and listened to one another. The other place that young people adore is the dance floor and trance music. No conversations – just movement and noise

Some of the exercises he suggests are interesting. Keeping completely silent for at least 3 minutes in a day, for example. This can be unnerving. Try this simple act of focusing on your breathing. Be aware of it. Feel the air enter your nostrils and go all the way down to your lungs. Now feel your chest expand and experience the air filling your lungs and providing the oxygen that circulates around your body. It keeps you alive, remember. Then let the air escape, slowly whooshing out of your body and your chest deflating. See if you can remain focused on this for more than 10 seconds without your mind wandering over what you need to do during the day, the problems that you have with money and relationships or with your boss. Hard to do? Right. We have absolutely no idea of how difficult it is to pay attention and concentrate. We use the word glibly but concentration means doing something without distractions. And in today’s world. multitasking is the way to go. Which means you never really concentrate on just one thing. We like the feeling of doing a lot of things without doing just one thing really well.

I don’t agree with the point that Treasure makes about teaching listening in schools. No one listens when they are bored. And teachers and parents tell their children a hundred times a day to ‘Listen’. So they don’t. But they learn only when they listen. Oh, well.