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!)