Learning to really listen

Raelene HallMidwest Times
Portrait of a Frustrated Maths Lecturer Banging his Head Against a Blackboard
Camera IconPortrait of a Frustrated Maths Lecturer Banging his Head Against a Blackboard Credit: Getty Images

In the very brief time I spent at uni — or WAIT as it was called then — the standard practice in lectures was to frantically take notes as you listened to the tutor and hope you could decipher them later.

Today you often don’t even have to attend lectures as they are available online for you to watch at your leisure.

That would certainly make note-taking easier, knowing you could rewind to certain parts or just watch it as many times as you wanted to let the information sink in. I was not familiar with the name Jordan Peterson until recently.

He is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. A friend suggested I look at his journey with COVID-19 and from there I began watching some of his other videos.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


One I found intriguing was that he told students not to take notes during his lectures, but to listen and pay attention. My first thought was “I wouldn’t remember a thing afterwards”.

However, mulling it over a bit later I recalled the times I had attended conferences and workshops where I frantically tried to keep notes throughout, usually to write a report later.

It suddenly occurred to me how often I found that while trying to write something down, I missed some of what the speaker was saying. The other day I took part in a Zoom workshop, a preliminary session for a course I have enrolled in.

Instinctively, I had pad and paper ready for note-taking, but something made me decide to put them aside in favour of just listening — really listening.

While I certainly can’t recall everything I would have if I’d written notes, it made me feel more connected to the presenter and what they were saying.

I was able to use my imagination and visualisation during the session, to be totally immersed in what the presenter was trying to impart. I came away from the session, not with every little detail written down for future reference, but feeling like I had been present and involved, rather than sitting on the sidelines like some court reporter.

To my mind, note-taking, in whatever form, still has its place but there are times when, to achieve the most from a presentation, we need to be fully present in the moment.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails