In a busy world, full of noise and clutter, it’s a valid concern. If we are losing the ability to be present and intentional in the way we listen, what is slipping through the cracks of our concentration? Did we miss something in a patients narrative that could have lead us to discover a significant stressor all because we ‘autopiloted’ our way through a session?
Perhaps we glossed over a hint at a symptom that got thrown out in conversation, because we weren’t present and intentional in our communication. It’s not just a problem for health professionals. It’s a problem for everyone.
There are some common pitfalls that get in the way of quality communication. One of them is the temptation to interrupt the speaker because you’ve got a solution they need to hear about now . But resisting that temptation can be a discipline that takes a little practice to master.
Many a communication expert has talked about active listening skills. These include using body language to show that you are listening, using eye contact to make sure you are zoning in on what the speaker is saying, and offering feedback. Others recommend using questions only to enhance understanding, rather than going off on tangents extraneous to the central topic [2,3]. All of these are fantastic skills to have, and certainly worth revisiting every now and then.
Julian Treasure takes a very different approach to the issue of listening. It’s partially technical, aimed at recalibrating our ears, and partially reminiscent of mindfulness training. He claims that teaching people how to listen should be a skill taught in schools, and one that could help us create a more peaceful and connected world. Big claims to make, and certainly something worth thinking about! But how do you do it?
In a recent TED Talk, Treasure gave some gems of advice on how we can improve our listening.
The first gem is the realisation that intention is important in listening, and that conscious listening creates understanding. “A world where we don’t listen to each-other at all is a scary world indeed,” says Treasure. Here’s how he advises we fix that problem.
Treasure believes that listening plays a very important role in our lives. “I believe that every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully — connected in space and in time to the physical world around us, connected in understanding to each other.”
Perhaps it’s a good challenge to take on while the year is still fresh. Let your listening enhance your connection to people and to the world around you.
 Treasure, J (2014) “Five Ways to Listen Better,” Ted Talks http://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_5_ways_to_listen_better/transcript?language=en retrieved 23 January 2017
 Schillings, D (http://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/11/09/10-steps-to-effective-listening/ retrieved 21 January 2017
 Staff Writer, (2016), “Active Listening – Communication Skills Training,” Mind Tools, https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm retrieved 21 January 2017