Transforming Conversations: I'm All Ears!

Transforming Conversations: I'm All Ears!

Have you ever watched a TED talk that stayed with you for years?

I’m thinking about Julian Treasure’s 2011 speech called “5 Ways to Listen Better”. I remember that he begins his talk by insisting that we’re losing our listening!

We’re overwhelmed with noise and have lost the habit of paying close attention, since there’s so much information always available at our fingertips. Increasingly, there’s endless broadcasting going on everywhere, but little true understanding. 

In a way, we've started to exist in our own little bubbles.

We can see the consequences all around us. Even more so in 2022 than in 2011. Is there still hope? Most definitely. Do we need to take action now? Without a doubt.

He offers some practical ideas for re-tuning our listening abilities, little by little. Here are the 5 ways we can learn to truly listen again:

  1. Be silent: spend three minutes a day in silence to re-set your ears.
  2. Hear: listen to individual strands of sound in a noisy space.
  3. Savour: find the joy in and appreciate the underlying qualities of mundane sounds.
  4. Adjust your position: play with your filters (active, passive, critical, empathetic, etc.).
  5. Follow RASA: Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, Ask (details below).

First off, I love how actionable these are!

And he’s so right that we're sending out messages but we're not always truly connecting. 

We need to recalibrate so that we can fulfil one of our basic functions as humans: really tuning into each other.

The first three of his suggested practices bring us back into our sense of hearing, re-gaining mindfulness and appreciation of it. The fourth allows us to step back and perceive it from the outside, becoming more conscious of our filters and experimenting with them.

His last recommendation is a process called RASA. Though he says this is a Sanskrit word for juice or essence, I just realized he may also be invoking the concept of “tabula rasa”, the clean slate. Hmmm, this may be something to bring up at cocktail parties. 😂

To use RASA, pause to receive someone’s message with true, undivided attention, and appreciate it in an audible way (“mmm”) so that the speaker knows we’re with them. Then summarize to reflect back what they’ve said and, when they’ve finished, ask questions to show curiosity and engagement.

In theory, when we correctly practise RASA, we stay in the present, our mind doesn’t wander and we resist the urge to formulate our next response or chime in before the person speaking has finished.

How often, in your experience, do people communicate this way with colleagues, with clients, with collaborators?

Instead, do messages go in one ear and out the other? Are people too busy defending their own points of view to stop and seek out diverse perspectives? Are they rushing on to the next thing?

Are executives maybe not bothering to get buy-in from their teams? And then wondering why everything is delayed or botched?

What is being missed?

On the other hand… if true listening were implemented, could you imagine being on the receiving end of such respectful attention? What might get accomplished if this kind of deep listening were a regular practice throughout your team, division, company?

We hear so many debates about whether people should be in the office together instead of working from home, but shouldn’t the real question be about how we receive and truly attend to one another?