(Another chapter in my forthcoming non-fiction That Th!nk You Do (note the clever change in the title? Gotta love those creatives, don’t you?) The fascinating chapter numbers are due to unfinished editing. I hope to share the bookcover soon)
Do you ever wish someone would just listen to you? That you could find someone who could understand not just the words but the emotions behind them? Well, it turns out that’s very easy to do.
First, find a musician. If not a musician, someone who’s had a great deal of music in their life. From an early age. The earlier the better, in fact. At least that’s what researchers at Northwestern University are saying. Or singing.
Studies show that people with musical backgrounds from an early point in their lives are wired differently than those without that musical background. Especially those who played music or sang, not just passively, listened. People – both males and females and regardless of culture – with music in their blood are much better at detecting and responding to the subtleties in our voices that indicate stress, anxiety, worry, doubt, fear…hopefully we don’t need musical training to recognize and respond to positive emotions in someone’s voice.
This auditory advantage takes another form with some of us: if we had lots of sounds in our childhood we can decode the sounds of speech better and faster than those of us who came from quiet families.
This information makes lots of sense to me. I well remember sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen and having the extended family – I think there would be about thirty of us at a whack – sitting and standing around the table, conversations in Italian and English going back and forth, back and forth, some people eating, a couple of uncles and aunts singing, uncle Freddie playing guitar in the living room, uncle Louie singing while cousin Rosalind played piano, …, the sounds were rich and full in my childhood.
A natural ability fostered by such an environment is being able to quickly recognize and decode important information from all the background noise, hence the ability to recognize and decode speech from noise.
So if you happen to visit your partner’s family and walk away thinking, “my goodness…do those people ever shut up?” Be grateful. Chances are you’re with someone who’ll really pay attention when you talk.
And in any case, the next time you really want to be heard, go see a musician.
Even better, if you want to be a good listener, learn to play some music.