Hearing the Noise of a Quiet Place

Coaching Articles - Essays for coaches

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Like many of us, Kerstin Long is wired, constantly connected to the noise of technology. Music, television, and other technologies are a constant hum in most of our lives. In this week's Coaching Matters, Kerstin disconnects from electronic media and discovers that silence creates rich opportunities for listening to others.

Hearing the Noise of a Quiet Place

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Elsewhereby Jeff Mahorney

Hearing the Noise of a Quiet Place

by Kerstin Pierce Long

Last week, I met a friend for breakfast and conversation. He's an avid listener of the public radio station I work for on weekends. I air the Metropolitan Opera and he always tunes in. Our talks are wide-ranging, from art to life, and we spent some time discussing iPods and music and the disappearance of quiet from many people's lives.

I shared that noise had become an annoying distraction for me, so I turned down the volume and quit listening to many things.

The first to go was radio and cds in the car. Then it was the volume on the television. The latest was my iPod. It went in the drawer, shutting away my workout and meditation music. Silence flowed into the void I created by turning the power button off, and I discovered that silence is often as rich as classical music.

Listening is something we do all the time and yet it is a difficult task. During a 10-minute conversation, we remember only 25-50% of what we talked about. That's two-and-a-half to five minutes. I recall times when I remembered even less than that. My mind has learned to constantly process and react to what I hear rather than to listen in stillness. Addicted to busy-ness and constant stimulation, my inner voice keeps right on talking despite the person in front of me.

Awareness of our surroundings, our selves, and others makes quiet a profound place. We absorb impressions and connect to others to a greater degree when we are free of the distractions of noise. It requires energy to be fully present and actively listen to another person. I am finding that periods of quiet during my day are a way to allow my mind to tune in to and really listen to others. My inner voice has begun to listen, too.

When I think about the mentors and coaches I admire, I realize that their ability to listen and respond in a personal way has affected me most. They also possess a present-moment receptiveness that is clearly discernable. I have consciously tried to find my way to that state of being, but it was a conversation with a friend over breakfast that showed me a path.