How are your listening skills doing these days? Do people really listen to you when you talk? Do you really listen when others speak?
When no one’s listening, communication breaks down and misunderstandings increase. One way to “reset” our ears is to spend three minutes in silence each day, according to Julian Treasure in his TED Talk, “5 Ways to Listen Better,” in which he warns us that we are losing our ability to truly listen.
Silence is a rare commodity even in nature, but one way you can experience it is to take a trip to your local Best Buy. Go to the headphones section and make your way to the Bose Sound-Canceling display. Choose the most expensive display model, wipe the ear pieces with an antibacterial wipe, and pop those puppies on your head. In an instant, you will experience the sound of silence—something you may never have experienced in a world where we create machines to generate white noise to drown out more noise. (Which I suppose may be how these headphones actually work, but trust me, this is closer to silence than running a fan all night will ever be.) When you take the headphones off, you’ll experience sound differently for a time, and you’ll be actively listening to what is going on around you. (Of course if you have more fun money than I have, you could always take a pair home so you can experience silence anywhere headphones can be worn.)
Your eyes also benefit from silence. In a way, reading is like hearing through our eyes. Many of us spend hours staring at words and pictures on a computer monitor or smart phone. Receiving information through the Internet is a bit like sweetened, condensed communication (as opposed to milk). A little goes a long way, and it needs to be diluted with less over-powering input to avoid sensory overload, which also can thwart our ability to listen well.
I’ve cut way back on my social media consumption over the past few weeks. At first, it was necessary as unexpected events limited my free time. Then, I realized I didn’t need to read every Facebook post. I didn’t need to know about breaking news stories first. I don’t need to weigh in on every trending hash-tag topic. I still check out my close friends news feeds, but I may not like and comment as often. If a friend really needs feedback, I know I’ll get a private message or phone call or face-to-face chat. I’m not shutting down my accounts, but I’m cutting back on my consumption for now. By building some silence into my life, I hope I can listen better and communicate better.
What about you? Do you need to build some social media silence into your life?