Is Listening an Endangered Skill?

Multitasking makes it hard for anything to get through

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Concerns about the effects of multitasking on the human brain have grown alongside the popularity of Internet, mobile devices and real-time communication. The latest one comes from Bronwyn Fryer, contributing editor for the Harvard Business Review, who wonders if the information age is ruining our ability to listen. Fryer recently attended PopTech, a conference on the social impact of technology, and couldn't help but notice that the attendants weren't paying attention to the speakers:

Why would anyone pay thousands of dollars to hear someone speak, and then not listen?

Today we're locked into a mode of continuous partial attention, as my friend Linda Stone calls it, where we're always scanning our BlackBerries for the next bit of news or opportunity. Multitasking is the norm (despite some evidence that it prevents us from doing anything very well).

Even so, I'm baffled as to why people can't, or won't, listen even when they've paid to do so. Is listening an endangered skill? Are you a good or a bad listener? Does it matter?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.