“Listen Up!”


I picked this new book up at the library on a whim, not expecting to find such a thoughtful and well documented book on listening, a skill greatly lacking in much of contemporary modern culture. Murphy, a contributing writer for The New York Times, delves into many aspects of listening, going far beyond tips for being a better listener.

One chapter in particular grabbed my attention since I had recently posted about the college that had to zip tie its chairs to prevent them being thrown at a controversial speaker. In her section “Listening to Opposing Views,” she addresses head on the students complaints that they feel “unsafe” around views different from their own. She cites a nationwide survey of college students from 2017 which found that 51% thought it was acceptable to shout down a speaker with whom they disagreed. More troubling, but corroborated by the chair tying, was that 19% supported using violence to prevent a speaker from delivering an address.

Further in the same chapter she explores the relationship between the amygdala in the brain which causes us to react to something we find threatening and the area needed for careful listening. “For example, children who have so-called helicopter parents tend to have overactive amygdala when faced with adversity. They have an exaggerated sense of threat likely because Mom and Dad have always run interference for them.” This means they truly feel unsafe around views different from their own and react with over the top emotions.

One sad fact I learned from her, as I am a devotee of the slow pace of listening to audio books, is that numbers of people listen to them at double and triple speed to get through them faster. My audio player has a feature to change the speed, but I have only used it to slow down the reader who goes to fast for me!

And in case you have wondered, contemporary restaurants really are too loud, many coming in at 90 decibels which causes hearing loss after four hours. So it’s not just you being curmudgeonly. (At least about restaurants!)

30 thoughts on ““Listen Up!”

  1. That’s probably why I don’t like audiobooks. I thought it was because the reader doesn’t always read them as I would, but it’s probably because it’s too slow and I tune out. I really ought to read more slowly myself though. I miss things and rarely remember the detail of what I’ve read.
    I’m getting better since I’ve been writing though.


    1. It definitely is a very different experience from reading the same text. I avoid listening to light weight writing. However texts with ample description and solid character development, rather than plot focus, make great audio books.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Why would anyone want to listen to an audio book at warp speed? I love story telling through radio theatre, podcasts or audio books and would hate to have a good story end sooner than necessary. Thanks for sharing.


  3. There’s more to this “listening business” than meets the eye — or, in this case, ear. For example, I don’t listen to the opposing views of people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity because I know who they are: intransigent, extreme right-wingers 100% invested in bloviating rather than in dialogue….but I will listen to hard-line conservatives like George Will who are thoughtful and reasonable.

    As a well-read senior citizen with a reasonably open mind, I think I’ve earned the right not to waste my time listening to close-minded ideologues who haven’t the slightest interest in truth-seeking, because they already know it all.


    1. A lot of the book was centered on face to face listening. Unless you could interact with Hannity there is no point in listening to him. I wonder if it would be possible to interact with him.


  4. I only listened to an audiobook once. (I got it for my Mum, but she had problems working a cassette player) I didn’t like the voice (male) of the actor reading it, so just could not enjoy the book.
    Now if I could just get Orson Welles to read everything… 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.


  5. I get this, and it is very sad. The Mom and Dad who always intervene is a big red flag for me. Now I see the consequences far down the road. And yes, restaurants are way too loud.


  6. I don’t know many local people other than myself who listen to audio books, Elizabeth. I listen to a lot of audio books and always have one on the go. I would never speed it up or I wouldn’t understand the story. Sometimes I have to go back and relisted to parts if they are complex and I think I have missed something.


  7. I can’t imagine trying to listen to an audio book at double or triple speed. And, it’s scary to think that I could be losing my hearing from being in a restaurant. I often think that they are too noisy -and don’t like the loud background music that if often playing – but didn’t realize that it could actually be a health hazard.


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