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Annotated captions of Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better in English

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We are losing our listening.

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We spend roughly 60 percent of our communication time listening,

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but we're not very good at it.

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We retain just 25 percent of what we hear.

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Now not you, not this talk,

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but that is generally true.

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Let's define listening

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as making meaning from sound.

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It's a mental process,

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and it's a process of extraction.

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We use some pretty cool techniques to do this.

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One of them is pattern recognition.

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(Crowd Noise) So in a cocktail party like this,

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if I say, "David, Sara, pay attention,"

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some of you just sat up.

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We recognize patterns

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to distinguish noise from signal,

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and especially our name.

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Differencing is another technique we use.

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If I left this pink noise on for more than a couple of minutes,

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you would literally cease to hear it.

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We listen to differences,

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we discount sounds that remain the same.

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And then there is a whole range of filters.

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These filters take us from all sound

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down to what we pay attention to.

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Most people are entirely unconscious

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of these filters.

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But they actually create our reality in a way,

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because they tell us what we're paying attention to right now.

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Give you one example of that:

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Intention is very important in sound, in listening.

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When I married my wife,

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I promised her that I would listen to her every day

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as if for the first time.

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Now that's something I fall short of on a daily basis.

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(Laughter)

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But it's a great intention to have in a relationship.

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But that's not all.

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Sound places us in space and in time.

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If you close your eyes right now in this room,

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you're aware of the size of the room

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from the reverberation

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and the bouncing of the sound off the surfaces.

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And you're aware of how many people are around you

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because of the micro-noises you're receiving.

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And sound places us in time as well,

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because sound always has

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time embedded in it.

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In fact, I would suggest that our listening is the main way

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that we experience the flow of time

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from past to future.

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So, "Sonority is time and meaning" -- a great quote.

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I said at the beginning, we're losing our listening.

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Why did I say that?

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Well there are a lot of reasons for this.

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First of all, we invented ways of recording --

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first writing, then audio recording

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and now video recording as well.

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The premium on accurate and careful listening

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has simply disappeared.

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Secondly, the world is now so noisy,

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(Noise) with this cacophony going on

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visually and auditorily,

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it's just hard to listen;

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it's tiring to listen.

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Many people take refuge in headphones,

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but they turn big, public spaces like this,

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shared soundscapes,

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into millions of tiny, little personal sound bubbles.

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In this scenario, nobody's listening to anybody.

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We're becoming impatient.

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We don't want oratory anymore,

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we want sound bites.

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And the art of conversation

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is being replaced -- dangerously, I think --

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by personal broadcasting.

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I don't know how much listening there is in this conversation,

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which is sadly very common,

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especially in the U.K.

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We're becoming desensitized.

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Our media have to scream at us with these kinds of headlines

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in order to get our attention.

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And that means it's harder for us to pay attention

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to the quiet, the subtle,

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the understated.

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This is a serious problem that we're losing our listening.

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This is not trivial.

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Because listening is our access to understanding.

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Conscious listening always creates understanding.

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And only without conscious listening

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can these things happen --

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a world where we don't listen to each other at all,

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is a very scary place indeed.

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So I'd like to share with you

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five simple exercises, tools you can take away with you,

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to improve your own conscious listening.

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Would you like that?

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(Audience: Yes.) Good.

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The first one is silence.

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Just three minutes a day of silence

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is a wonderful exercise

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to reset your ears and to recalibrate

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so that you can hear the quiet again.

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If you can't get absolute silence,

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go for quiet, that's absolutely fine.

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Second, I call this the mixer.

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(Noise) So even if you're in a noisy environment like this --

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and we all spend a lot of time in places like this --

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listen in the coffee bar

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to how many channels of sound can I hear?

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How many individual channels in that mix am I listening to?

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You can do it in a beautiful place as well, like in a lake.

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How many birds am I hearing?

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Where are they? Where are those ripples?

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It's a great exercise

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for improving the quality of your listening.

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Third, this exercise I call savoring,

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and this is a beautiful exercise.

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It's about enjoying mundane sounds.

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This, for example, is my tumble dryer.

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(Dryer) It's a waltz.

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One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three.

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I love it.

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Or just try this one on for size.

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(Coffee grinder)

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Wow!

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So mundane sounds can be really interesting if you pay attention.

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I call that the hidden choir.

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It's around us all the time.

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The next exercise

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is probably the most important of all of these,

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if you just take one thing away.

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This is listening positions --

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the idea that you can move your listening position

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to what's appropriate to what you're listening to.

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This is playing with those filters.

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Do you remember, I gave you those filters at the beginning.

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It's starting to play with them as levers,

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to get conscious about them and to move to different places.

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These are just some of the listening positions,

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or scales of listening positions, that you can use.

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There are many.

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Have fun with that. It's very exciting.

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And finally, an acronym.

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You can use this in listening, in communication.

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If you're in any one of those roles --

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and I think that probably is everybody who's listening to this talk --

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the acronym is RASA,

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which is the Sanskrit word

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for juice or essence.

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And RASA stands for Receive,

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which means pay attention to the person;

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Appreciate, making little noises

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like "hmm," "oh," "okay";

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Summarize, the word "so" is very important in communication;

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and Ask, ask questions afterward.

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Now sound is my passion, it's my life.

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I wrote a whole book about it. So I live to listen.

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That's too much to ask from most people.

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But I believe that every human being

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needs to listen consciously

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in order to live fully --

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connected in space and in time

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to the physical world around us,

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connected in understanding to each other,

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not to mention spiritually connected,

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because every spiritual path I know of

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has listening and contemplation

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at its heart.

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That's why

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we need to teach listening in our schools

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as a skill.

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Why is it not taught? It's crazy.

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And if we can teach listening in our schools,

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we can take our listening off that slippery slope

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to that dangerous, scary world that I talked about

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and move it to a place where everybody is consciously listening all the time --

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or at least capable of doing it.

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Now I don't know how to do that,

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but this is TED,

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and I think the TED community is capable of anything.

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So I invite you to connect with me, connect with each other,

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take this mission out and let's get listening taught in schools,

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and transform the world in one generation to a conscious listening world --

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a world of connection,

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a world of understanding and a world of peace.

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Thank you for listening to me today.

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(Applause)