Listening is an underrated sense to us Engineers

Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist at Brown University and the author of “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind”, wrote a terrific article in the New York Times called The Science and Art of Listening which starts...

"Here's a trick question. What do you hear right now?  If your home is like mine, you hear the humming sound of a printer, the low throbbing of traffic from the nearby highway and the clatter of plastic followed by the muffled impact of paws landing on linoleum — meaning that the cat has once again tried to open the catnip container atop the fridge and succeeded only in knocking it to the kitchen floor."

The slight trick in the question is that, by asking you what you were hearing, I prompted your brain to take control of the sensory experience — and made you listen rather than just hear. That, in effect, is what happens when an event jumps out of the background enough to be perceived consciously rather than just being part of your auditory surroundings. The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention.   [Horowitz, NY Times 11/9/2012]

This trick of asking yourself what are you hearing right now, reminds us of the difference between listening and hearing.   Many of us have no trouble hearing sounds, but listening to meanings with our full attention is another matter.  Can we shut of our internal thoughts and really listen to our design team around us?   Can we listen to the Architect or Contractor or co-worker without assuming what they will say or without interruptions by our own thoughts?

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