When someone is speaking, do you truly listen? Are you sure?
"Today" show host Hoda Kotb put her listening skills to the test last month by trying "conscious listening." She sat in a quiet, sound-proof studio to experience stark silence for the first time before re-emerging back into her noisier, everyday environment,
And the experience changed her perception of her world.
“You realize all the little things, and you realize all the outside noise," Kotb saidon the "Today" show. "It suddenly made me realize that I had to pay attention."
This simple exercise uses a silence to reset people's ears and encourage them to truly be present with those around them.
"Speaking is far more valued than listening… and that, to me, is tragic, because it's such an important skill," says Julian Treasure, a sound and communication expert. "People treat listening as if it's a capability like breathing or something unconscious that you don't pay attention to. But in fact, (good listening) takes effort, practice and attention."
What is 'conscious listening' and how does it work?
Conscious listening is a grounding exercise that involves two steps. First, it requires sitting in silence, also known as the "baseline of sound."
"This will help recalibrate your ears and allows you to listen afresh," Treasure says.
Though Kotb visited a state-of-the-art quiet studio, conscious listening can also be done in quieter environments like an isolated park. For those living in busy cities, Treasure recommends driving to a more quiet neighborhood.
After 10 minutes, re-immerse yourself back into your everyday environment, but this time when doing so, pay attention to the individual noises, whether it be birds chirping, cars honking or water flowing.
"This will help you tune into your current environment and the present moment, instead of worrying about things that can happen in the future or in your meeting later this afternoon," says Selena Rezvani, an author and public speaker.
"It allows you to attend to the present without slipping into the future or past."
The benefits of silence
Especially in busy cities, silence is a luxury that not everyone has access to. But experts say it poses many hidden benefits and is therefore worth seeking out. It can promote concentration and productivity in the workplace, and it can also help people build healthier relationships.