Why Listening Is So Much More Than Hearing – NYTimes.com

My parenting lens is kicking in here (monitoring the lack of focus on homework, constant texting, Facebooking, Pinteresting) but this skill matters for diplomats even more than others.  Its not enough to hear…we have to listen.

Attention is not some monolithic brain process. There are different types of attention, and they use different parts of the brain. The sudden loud noise that makes you jump activates the simplest type: the startle. A chain of five neurons from your ears to your spine takes that noise and converts it into a defensive response in a mere tenth of a second — elevating your heart rate, hunching your shoulders and making you cast around to see if whatever you heard is going to pounce and eat you. This simplest form of attention requires almost no brains at all and has been observed in every studied vertebrate.

More complex attention kicks in when you hear your name called from across a room or hear an unexpected birdcall from inside a subway station. This stimulus-directed attention is controlled by pathways through the temporoparietal and inferior frontal cortex regions, mostly in the right hemisphere — areas that process the raw, sensory input, but don’t concern themselves with what you should make of that sound. (Neuroscientists call this a “bottom-up” response.)

via Why Listening Is So Much More Than Hearing – NYTimes.com.


6 thoughts on “Why Listening Is So Much More Than Hearing – NYTimes.com”

  1. It is amazing to me how little people listen when interacting with others. Especially when involved in negotiations. As this article mentions, it is not just about hearing the words coming out of their mouth, but also listening to how people say what they say. For example, someone may respond to you by saying, “right, we can do that”. Or they can say, “riiiiiiiiiiiight, we can do that”. Missing the social cue of sarcasm would drastically change how an individual interprets this response. This is a simple example, but it marks a point. How can we expect to respond appropriately or in the proper manner (especially as diplomats) if we are not listening to what the individual is saying. If we do not listen to their words, their tonation, their emphasis, then we will misinterpret what they are trying to communicate. Here is an important of what listening can do in politics


  2. It is interesting that Troy brings up how listening applies in negotiations. Earlier today I was participating in a study where the group was given instructions and then paired off in rooms to negotiate a few different issues. We had each been given a list of objectives and point values based on what outcome we agreed upon. Immediately I realized that the other person in the room hadn’t listened to the original instructions and didn’t realize that I was rewarded highly for things he wasn’t and vice versa. It made for a very boring negotiation and it also made me realize that listening isn’t just something that can be used to gain advantage. It is necessary to simply not lose ground in any negotiation. Here is some good advice on how to listen effectively in negotiations:

  3. I am sure the point is to talk about listening verse hearing but I want to leave that subject. Of course it is interesting, though not surprising, to note that when you focus there is a different process you go through. Listening is clearly intentional, while hearing is passive and automatic. Though I wanted to touch on what the author spoke about, that hearing is fairly underrated. That statement is totally true. There is a room that NASA built that blocks 99% of sound, so that astronauts can get use to it. Turns out, no one can last over 45 minutes without losing their mind. Even though hearing is passive, it is vital for us. Our mind needs that back ground noise to function properly, and in a setting where most sound is gone, it will seek out sound. Whether by focusing in on your heartbeat making it quite loud, or even making up sounds that are not there. It is quite fascinating and thought would be an interesting point since we are talking about the sense of hearing. Check out the article below about the “Quietest place on earth”.


  4. That is a really interesting article on the quietest place on earth. As i read this article i thought about a quote i saw on facebook yesterday, “you can tell how much you like someone by how much you text when you’re with them.” Now this funny saying actually has a lot of truth to it. when im with people i not only need to listen to them but i want to feel that they are listening to me. It is natural for humans to crave or desire attention. If someone pulls out their phone, ipod, computer and continues to listen but doesnt give me eye contact or proper responses i can become frustrated and sad. Whether we admit it or not everything we do or dont do while talking to someone sends a message to them. Maybe its a girl we like, the delegate from _____, or both if we dont learn to listen with our ears and our body language we will run in to difficulties.

    “we hear what we listen for”

  5. There are a lot of reasons for which we “listen”. We listen for enjoyment. We listen to obtain information. We listen to oblige someone. We listen to discern if a situation is dangerous or not. We listen for understanding. From the article we learn that a lot of listening is subconscious and happens because of an intricate filtration process in our brains. We determine which sounds are most importance to us, and which require our undivided attention. However, it is difficult for us to listen for understanding when all we have on our minds is that which we want to say. I feel that, especially in negotiations, we keep what we want and desire at the forefront of our minds. It is a natural tendency, but it is one that can hamper our ability to reach an accord with others, and understand where they are coming from. We need to “tune out” the voices in our head that are constantly telling us what we want to accomplish, as we listen to others and interpret their view points. As we do this, we can reach a better understanding of their demands, which allows for better negotiation.


  6. During the High School Conference a couple weeks ago I realized the delegates that I thought did best were the ones who listened. They were able to get there ideas across by steering other in the direction they wanted after listening to the others ideas. Listening is very important and can change the atmosphere of a room. It is natural to become frustrated when you are not heard. Personal experience has brought me to this realization as well. Within the last year I have been diagnosed with a disease that has caused hearing lost, severe in one ear and moderate in the other. Growing up my hearing was impeccable and I could respond to others with little effort and “listen” whenever someone was speaking. However, listening has taken on a new meaning because it takes alot of concentration to have to watch and process what someone is saying. Not everyone knows I have this problem and get frustrated with me when I say “what” or “can you say that again”. Often people say “nevermind” and will just leave or not finish their thoughts. I have to explain to them its not because I dont care. When they realize that I do care what they are concerned about they open up and are willing to share their feeling with me. I thought this article was really interesting because of this experience over the last year. I have come to appreciate those who listen to me and I have become a better listener as I focus my attention on people. Bringing this together, those who truly listen to what other say appeal to the pathos of those people. When we are emotionally involved a deeper connection is made and can make those other people want to work with us, such as some of the students at the HS Conference demonstrated.

    this is short but I really like what he has to say about effecting the mood.


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