How to be Heard (2017) identifies proven ways to become a powerful speaker, the kind that commands people’s attention and keeps them hanging on your every word. Author Julian Treasure also examines the steps people can take to improve their listening skills, allowing them to better understand what’s being said and making the listener feel that they’re being heard. These tips can help improve both communication skills and our most important relationships.
Of course sound is important to us, even when we don’t pay attention to every single sound around. But, surprisingly enough, sound also has physiological and psychological effects on us.
In the physiological sense, sound can influence our overall health, especially when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. According to the World Health Organization, around 8 million people in western Europe suffer from sleep deprivation due to traffic noise that exceeds acceptable levels. This not only leads to higher levels of stress and depression, but it also weakens the immune system and makes us more prone to violence and anger.
As for the psychological or emotional effects of sound, a study from Sweden’s Lund University describes how music can trigger emotional associations and images in our mind’s eye. For example, when people hear the first two notes of John William’s classic theme song from Jaws, a sense of fear is automatically heightened as the image of a shark enters their mind.
In a similar vein, sound can also affect us on a cognitive and behavioral level, having a notable impact on how we think and how productive we are.
Research shows that ambient noise in an open workspace, such as overheard conversations, are so distracting that they can reduce productivity levels by two-thirds. Likewise, a survey of 1,800 British workers showed that approximately two hours of productivity each day were lost due to unwanted noise.
Last but not least, there’s the way sound can change our behavior.
The mayor of Lancaster, California, R. Rex Parris, tried to reduce crime in the city by setting up speakers throughout the downtown area, known as The Boulevard, that played bird songs, lapping water and other calming sounds. According to the town’s Sheriff, crime in Lancaster subsequently dropped 15 percent – and the town has also made plenty of media headlines as a result.
Now that we have a better understanding of the potential of sound, let’s look at some of the obstacles it faces.