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Communications according to Julian Treasure

Communications according to Julian Treasure

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” ….Plato

Everybody can speak but very few can actually communicate. Communication is all about pitching your ideas out there and making people realize that YOU have something worth hearing!

Your talk will only hold value if people recognize that your ideas can make a difference in their lives. That is exactly what Julian Treasure’s work is all about.

Julian is a sound and communication expert whose mission is to help people and organizations to listen better and create healthier and more effective sound, including speaking. He is the author of the books How to be Heard and Sound Business. [1]

Julian has done research into the effect of sounds on our psyche and emotions. He found a correlation between sounds and the productivity of a person.

“My dream is to make the world sound better, but the only way to do that is to let Businesses see that there is profit in it”                                                                                                                      – Julian Treasure

In 2003 Julian founded ‘The Sound Agency’ which is an audio branding company that asks the question “How does your brand sound?” His company aims at helping businesses worldwide to design with sound.

Julian is famous for his five TED talks that have been viewed by millions of people. These talks deliver effective messages in a clear and concise manner.

He is one of the continuously featured personalities in TIMES Magazine, BBC, and The Economist. In addition, he has been invited to various talk shows on local and international television, radio as well as podcasts.

Richard Francis, the founder of Senscape, says about Julian Treasure:

“Julian is on the cutting edge of changing how many perceive our world, with practical advice mixed with a fresh and innovative approach around the fields of sound and communication. I have benefitted from his advice and generosity and I would advise anyone to tune in to his world and think” [2]

We will be taking a look into the philosophies and findings of Julian Treasure to find how people should communicate and the effects of sound on people.

How to Speak So That People Will Listen…

Starting with perhaps the most famous talk given by Julian, we aim to learn the finer points of what it takes to be a great communicator.

Before we try to improve our voice, we must first take a good hard look at our character.

The human voice – it’s the instrument we all play. It’s the most powerful sound in the world, probably the only sound in the world that can start a war or say I love you (Treasure, 2014) [3].

The 7 Sins

Julian identifies the 7 habits that everyone should try to avoid.

  • Gossiping: It’s hard to trust a gossiper. You know that if they are gossiping about someone to you then they are gossiping about you to someone. It is this quality that makes people want to distance themselves from gossipers.
  • Judging: People who judge someone on the spot are hard to speak in front of. You know that they will judge your words and might find you wanting which makes you want to disassociate with them.
  • Negativity: People who constantly spew negative sound at you are not ones you usually want to hang around with. No one wants to be surrounded by negativity.
  • Complaining: Same as negativity, it’s hard to be around people who constantly complain. Julian says it’s like ‘viral misery’.
  • Excuses: Talking with someone who keeps making excuses is not a pleasant time. You quickly realize that they will never take responsibility of their actions or failures and always push their mistakes onto someone else.
  • Exaggeration: If someone always describes everything as ‘awesome’ then would you believe them if they actually did see something truly amazing?
  • Dogmatism: People who treats their opinions as facts are quite infuriating. They will bombard you with their thoughts and opinions while expecting you to treat them as scientific fact.

These are the 7 bad habits of communication according to Julian Treasure that people and organizations as well must avoid.

The 4 Cornerstones

Next, we take a look at the 4 cornerstones of powerful speech – HAIL.

H stands for honesty, A stands for authenticity, I stands for integrity and L is stands for love.

  • Honesty is obviously a great trait to have. It lends credibility to your character and endears you to the hearts of people.
  • Authenticity refers to the truth of your character. Are you acting like yourself when you talk to different people? It’s impossible to talk to everyone the same way, obviously, but even if you talk in a different way, are the words you’re using truly what you want them to be?
  • Integrity is how you know that a person is not just all talk. Actually, doing what you say is how one distinguishes the great from the ordinary.
  • Love is just wishing for the best and happiness to other people. It doesn’t have to be romantic it just has to be genuine.

All of these must be used in conjunction with the others to give your communications a powerful and strong base.

The Toolbox

Now we move on to our voices!

The sound of our voice is very important as it informs the listener about our thoughts even before we phrase out a proper sentence.

As Treasure said during his video:

  • “You have an amazing toolbox. This instrument is incredible, and yet very few people have ever opened it.”

A good communicator not only pays attention to what he/she is saying but also how they are saying it.

Following are the tools in your box, according to Julian [3]:

  • Register – a deeper voice from the chest speaks with more power and authority.
  • Timbre – how the voice feels or sounds – distinct from tone or loudness.
  • Prosody – the singsong or up and down of the movement – opposite of monotonous. Some problems are an upward inflection at the end of every sentence to make everything a question?
  • Pace– a rapid pace, then slowing down for emphasis. Or just pausing occasionally can be very powerful.
  • Pitch – a higher pitch can make you sound more excited
  • Volume – quiet to make people lean in and pay attention, louder can also show excitement. Don’t broadcast loudly all the time.

If you master the use of the above-mentioned tools correctly then they are guaranteed to enhance your speech (and also communication).

Paying heed to your physical voice is essential. For example, if you are a manager, team lead, or executive you may need to practice speaking with the lower register. This will make your voice sound more authoritative and powerful.

On the other hand, if you want to ace public speaking then paying attention to prosody may help. Prosody aids by breaking monotony in your speech and prevents it from getting boring.

Moreover, Julian cited the need to listen. By becoming a good listener, you stand a better chance of improving your performance, productivity, and well-being. You also stand a chance of building stronger and long-lasting relationships.

So, what is the problem?

Most of us don’t listen! We are not very good at listening and many believe that good communication is just about smooth talks and great ideas.

However, this is not exactly the case. Listening is as essential to good communication as talking.

Julian argues that “this devaluing of listening is handed down from generation to generation. There are many children who don’t have the experience of being listened to by their parents. 

If we’re not listened to, then that doesn’t create a desire inside us to listen to others. Societally, we don’t value it. As parents, we tend to be in Tell rather than listen mode.” [3]

This brings us to Julian’s other four TED Talks.

The Other 4 TED Talks…

Julian Treasure delivered 4 more TED Talks before the above one. They were:

  • The 4 Ways Sound Affects Us
  • Shh! Sound Health In 8 Steps
  • 5 Ways To Listen better
  • Why Architects Need To Use Their Ears

The first one is all about sound, and the second one is about sound and health.

Third Talk mentions listening as an essential tool to becoming a good communicator. Julian pointed out the reason for this Talk in a podcast called ‘Optimize Your Listening and Speaking with Julian Treasure’

“I started talking about listening because it occurred to me that the noise around us is not all just made by organizations. Organizations aren’t things, they are composed of people and it’s all of us not listening, which is the issue with the noise that’s being made, the lack of design sound around us. 

The fact that most of the sound around us is just accidental. It’s like the exhaust gas of what’s going on. I did a talk on listening skills, that’s the third one.” [3]

The fourth Talk emphasized the need of designing structures that pay special focus on sound.

Interestingly, none of the above four Talks gained as much popularity as the fifth one i.e. How to Speak so that People will Listen.

This is what Julian had to say about it:

  • “Interesting to me (is the fact) that it has got at least six times as many views as the talk about listening which says something. All of our priorities, we’re rather keynote to speak and be heard than we are to listen.” [3]

In our previous series, we have continuously pointed out that a great communicator needs to be a great listener.

Speaking and listening go hand in hand. You will only be heard if you learn to listen better.

An age-old quote by a Greek philosopher rightly portrays nature’s message:

  • “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.”

No matter, how much you work to avoid it, all leaders inevitably end up in situations that are out of their control.

It may be quite easy to fly off the handle and unleash your anger like ragging fire. It may even get things done your way. However, if you slow down to listen; you’ll realize that it will defuse the situation without causing any harm.

Julian Treasure has put it very accurately:

  • “Anybody who cares about inspiring people, forming a team, getting people to work with you, getting your point across, make a difference in the world, listening is great access to all of those things. The better you listen, the better you can speak, communicate, and get your point across.” [3]

5 Ways to Listen Better…

Julian is an advocate of conscious listening. In his TED Talk ‘5 Ways to Listen Better,’ he points out that conscious listening always creates understanding.

If you would imagine a world where no one listens, it would indeed become a very scary place to live in.

Our listening is guided by filters such as culture, language, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and intentions.

In this same Talk, Julian suggested 5 simple ways to become a better listener. In his words, they are:

  1. Silence – Just three minutes a day of silence is a wonderful exercise to reset your ears and to recalibrate, so that you can hear the quiet again.
  2. The Mixer – If you are in a noisy environment, concentrate on and differentiate the different sounds that you hear.
  3. Savoring – It’s about enjoying mundane sounds such a tumble dryer…. Mundane sounds can be really interesting — if you pay attention. They are “hidden choir” — it’s around us all the time.
  4. Listening Position – The idea that you can move your listening position to what’s appropriate to what you’re listening to. This is playing with those filters (that are mentioned above). It’s starting to play with them as levers, to get conscious about them and to move to different places.
  5. Acronym – The acronym is RASA, which is the Sanskrit word for “juice” or “essence.” And RASA stands for “Receive,” which means pay attention to the person; “Appreciate,” making little noises like “hmm,” “oh,” “OK”; “Summarize” — the word “so” is very important in communication; and “Ask,” ask questions afterwards. [4]


When it comes to communication and listening, Julian Treasure is the best. His simple ideas and techniques are very powerful in enabling a person to polish his/her communication skills. It goes without saying that a great leader needs to be a good communicator and above all an emphatic listener.


[1]. Julian’s Biography, Julian Treasure Team https://www.juliantreasure.com/about#Our-Story

[2]. Julian Treasure, 27th June 2014, TED, How to talk so that people want to listen,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIho2S0ZahI&t=2s

[3]. Optimize your listening and speaking with Julian Treasure, 13th February 2020, Stephen Spencer https://www.getyourselfoptimized.com/optimize-your-listening-and-speaking-with-julian-treasure/

[4]. Julian Treasure, 5 Ways to Listen Better, July 2011, TED Talks https://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_5_ways_to_listen_better 

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Co-creating “Moments of Inner Magic” – coaching, mentoring and facilitating for transformative leadership in organizations.

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