Julian Treasure Says Communication Demands Great Listening

opening our ears is just as important as opening our mouths

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Julian Treasure’s TED Talks on speaking have five times the views as his TED Talks on listening. However, it isn’t because listening is less important; we simply think it is. He isn’t surprised, but it’s not the best sign.

Julian Treasure
Julian Treasure is a sought-after and top-rated international speaker on sound and the skills of speaking and listening. Collectively, his five TED Talks and nine TEDx Talks have been viewed more than 120 million times. Photo by Wondrium

“If you want to be a great speaker, whether public or private, you need also to be a great listener—those two things are intimately related,” said top-rated TED Talks speaker, Julian Treasure.

The cyclical nature of communication is often ignored. When one person finishes speaking and the other person responds, the first person is usually just waiting for the other party to be done so they can say more themselves. However, listening is a vital and active skill that can and must be acquired in order to promote clear communication. Treasure’s TED Talk on speaking is the sixth-most viewed TED Talks talk of all time, with 49 million views, besting the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk.

So why does his talk on listening have just 10 million? We prioritize output much more than input. In his video series How to Speak So That People Want to Listen, which is now available to stream on Wondrium, he explains why listening is so vital. In an exclusive interview, he provided more context on himself and the series.

How Communication Is Threatened

Treasure is heavily invested in the subject of communication, and it’s easy to understand why.

“Never has listening been more important on the planet—never has communication been more important on the planet,” Treasure said. “The population is going up all the time; there are more of us per square meter on this Earth than ever before. If we’re going to live peacefully together in some sort of social system that does not end up with people being horrible to each other—violent, aggressive, whatever—then we need to learn to communicate well.”

Treasure is fond of saying, “Conscious listening is the doorway to understanding.” The best example of this may be to show what happens when it fails. He said that our speaking and our listening are under threat right now due to how the internet is used. People often make friends online with others who share their views, leading to so-called “echo chambers” that reinforce and dogmatize those views, even if they’re factually incorrect. Extremism and polarization follow.

“We’re seeing all sorts of really unfortunate behaviors being reinforced, simply because people can go somewhere where there’s a small group of people who believe the same thing and join them,” he said. “We seek affirmation, not challenge, and it’s very important to withstand challenge. We tend to like listening to people with whom we agree, because it makes us feel right.”

Sounds about Right

Presenting one of the most popular TED Talks of all time is no small feat, but Julian Treasure has much more experience under his belt. He has 20 years of work experience in advertising and magazine publishing. He founded, grew, and sold his publishing agency, TPD. In 2003, he founded The Sound Agency, which is a successful audio branding company.

“Audio branding, when I started The Sound Agency, was fairly unusual,” he said. “Now it’s pretty much taken for granted that if you’re creating a brand you need to think about ‘Does it have a sound? Should it have a little sonic logo or jingle or something?’ and many of them do now.”

Among his proudest achievements, he listed, “helping to bring people to consciousness that listening is a skill, not a capability.” In fact, listening to someone with whom we disagree is an excellent exercise in building our communication abilities.

“Politicians ‘go off and have talks’; I wish they would go off and have ‘listens,’ instead,” he said.

How to Speak So That People Want to Listen is now available to stream on Wondrium.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily