Monday, August 8, 2011

Sounds and Listening

We went swimming today, which usually results in us returning in a tired but relaxed, feeling-good state.  Today, however, I came home with a headache.  Why?  Because the pool where we were swimming was playing rock music at such a loud level that it distracted my son from concentrating on his swimming and left me with a headache.

Why was it so loud?  When we were there, there were only a handful of swimmers.  So I'm thinking that perhaps it had been set at a louder level for the weekend, where presumably they had a lot of families swimming, which required them to play the music at a higher volume, and they forgot to reduce it for their smaller and quieter Monday clientele.  I would have asked at the desk, but nobody was there when we were ready to leave, and I wasn't sticking around any longer to try to get an answer.

But it reminded me of the talk we heard yesterday from Richard Maraj, who was speaking about how to make the most of the time we have.  One of the things Richard talked about a lot was listening--listening to others, listening to ourselves, listening to our spiritual guidance.  So it struck my attention--I attended a talk about listening, and then a case where listening (or, at least, hearing) resulted in physical distress.   That was enough to make me check out some resources about listening.

Eventually, that led me to one of the current experts on listening--a man named Julian Treasure.  He gave a talk to TED a couple of years ago about the way that sounds affect us:

This talk helped explain why I got a head ache, why I wanted to show that video on the Internet several days ago, and why the pool had better reconsider the volume of their music if they hope to turn a profit.   One of his best points, I think, is how powerful music can be, whether for good or for ill (he played one second clips that were instantly recognizable and that could effect our moods very powerfully).

Even more helpful, though, was his TED talk of last month, in which he gave tips about how to listen more effectively.  His argument here was that all the noise in our environment is degrading our ability to listen, which effectively degrades our ability to live (see my original point about Richard's talk).  But he gives us some tips to improve listening skills:

These are good ideas not only for us to know, but for our middle schoolers.  Because, let's face it--even as we attempt to differentiate education, and include multimedia and adjust for multiple intelligences and different learning styles, a lot of education is about listening.  I think we may not realize that our children may need more coaching about how to listen that we did, since we grew up in a less auditorially-complex world.

It may be that some coaching on improving listening abilities may be the best back-to-school tool we can provide our children with for the upcoming school year.

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