The year of listening, not hearing
My intention for 2023 is to make this my year of listening. In a 52 part series I attempt to explore the different intentions, as well as the impact of, the barriers to and the techniques involved in listening. As a coach, colleague, parent friend and family member I have found that listening can be the greatest of gifts and the path to deeper understanding, empathy and compassion.
In the human brain, neurons devoted to visual processing are estimated to number in the hundreds of millions and take up about 30 % of the cortex, as compared with 8 % for touch and just 3 % for hearing. But while our hearing is a small part of our information processing, it's place in culture science and society cannot be underestimated.
Hearing is defined as the “process, function, or power of perceiving sound; specifically: the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli.” So it is essentially passive. Listening, on the other hand, means “to pay attention to sound; to hear something with thoughtful attention; and to give consideration.” A fundamentally active process.
Listening is the first communication skill we develop. We begin to engage with the listening process long before we engage in any recognizable verbal or nonverbal communication. It is only after listening for months as infants that we begin to consciously practice our own forms of expression. As a baby grows, sounds become audible to them. Around week 25 or 26, babies in the womb have been shown to respond to voices and noise.
And if you have a question, a practice technique or observation on listening - I'm all ears!