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Listening and the Echo Chamber

At the University of Southern California’s commencement ceremony, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s address focused on listening—a skill that, when practiced well, stands architects as well as communications professionals in good stead. It is a task, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author said, that is a “uniquely human capacity” and takes three forms—being empathetic with others; listening to the past; and listening to nature, “eavesdropping on the universe, learning its natural laws, its geometries, its rhythms, its constancies, its mind.”

“The [letters of the] word ‘listen’ can be rearranged into ‘silent,’ ” Mukherjee noted, saying “silence is the absolute prerequisite of listening,” and warning that “the premium placed on self-curation, on individuality, on identity—Who are you? What are you?—has created a perpetual echo chamber of self-actualization from which there is seemingly no escape.”

Do you ever feel caught in that echo chamber—as a designer or as a PR specialist? How do you sharpen your listening skills?