Tuning into listening

Learning how to decode the specialised language unique to each business sector can be a scary and humbling experience for the communications professional.

Our job is to connect with the client and help her tell her story in a way that is so clear, so compelling, and so darn interesting that it will cut through the competing babble and static.

Active listening needs patience, respect, and a commitment to finding common ground. Somewhere in the midst of all those big words, exclusive acronyms and abstruse concepts there might lurk the nugget of a “Wow – really?  Tell me more!” moment. 

My brother and I are music nuts – some would say obsessives, which I consider a compliment. He is also very knowledgeable about home audio.  I am not.  But my ears respond well to a quality stereo system.

For some time, my brother has urged me to upgrade my amplifier.  I know he has been right about this, but I kept putting it off.  I suppose I was bewildered by choice, and worried I would buy a dud.

Recently, my brother came over for dinner – accompanied by several pre- and power amplifiers.  Over the next few nights, as we sat on my sofa to test and compare them, he talked about their different qualities.

He used words and phrases that bewildered me.  The resistance of my speakers. Ohms and watts.  The quality differences in valves.  Solid state versus valve technology.  I wanted to understand, to find the common ground – to reach a decision that was informed and right.  I asked him lots of questions, and noticed that instead of getting irritated, he enjoyed explaining.  Breaking it down.  Making it clear for me.  The world of audio is special to him, and he worked hard to tell the story of sound in a way I would understand.

One night, I suggested we listen to Radiohead’s newest work of genius, A Moon Shaped Pool. The songs are complex, demanding, exquisite.  I wondered if I would hear fresh sounds and subtleties with the DJW valve pre-amp and power amp that I was leaning into buying.  

“Let’s test the sound stage,” I declared with my new-found audio language.  My brother smiled.

We wound up the volume.  We sat in rapt silence through Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief

My brother turned to me and said, “That is a bloody great song!”

And it sounded fantastic too.  We had listened our way through to common ground.

I bought the amplifiers.