Communication is consistently reported as one of the most—if not the most—important factors to building and maintaining healthy relationships. As reported by the PBS program The Emotional Life:
“How couples behave when solving problems together or arguing can predict the character and success of their relationship. A raised eyebrow, a hand on the arm, or a greeting all may seem like small things, but research shows that the quality of everyday interactions can make or break a relationship.”
Likewise, communication skills are just as important at work: one 2014 survey of approximately 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand set of skills among employers. In fact, of five leading skill sets employers consider most important when rendering a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication affects practically every aspect of our lives. Attempting to enhance our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to start if we desire to make some positive changes.
How to become an effective communicator
Becoming an effective communicator is not complicated, but it does require some elementary skills and the willingness to practice.
The initial step is to understand that the objective of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and appreciated. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as importantly, requires strong listening skills.
The fact is, listening skills may be the most vital part of communication. The explanation is very simple: if you fail to understand what is being said, you won’t be able to articulate a relevant and meaningful reply. This failure to understand is the underlying cause of many misunderstandings, quarrels, and bad feelings.
Developing listening skills, then, is the single most significant thing you can do to become a better communicator. And while active listening can be challenging in its own right, hearing loss makes things even harder.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening requires dedicating all attention to the speaker. Only by completely comprehending the communication can you create a relevant and significant response, and that’s why ineffective speakers are almost always distracted listeners.
But what brings about the distraction?
Here are four typical sources of distraction and how hearing loss has a tendency to make things worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you understand how difficult it can be to concentrate. You’re more liable to be focused on your own thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to lose out on crucial non-verbal signs and to misread what other people are saying.
With respect to stress, hearing loss by itself is a major source. You may become anxious about missing important information or coming up with embarrassing responses. And, the struggle to hear speech in the presence of hearing loss is a source of anxiety and strain by itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal inclination to wander. You can’t both listen to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text, and plan what you’re going to say next. Keeping inside of the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle details of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss brings about a lack of focus because it takes you outside the present moment. If you’re trying to understand what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying right now. The continual catching-up virtually ensures that you’ll never fully understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both force you to misinterpret the message. This presents the possibility of you becoming upset or agitated with a message that the other person never actually meant to send.
This at the very least wastes time and in the worst case manufactures bad feelings. Not to mention the aggravation of the person who is persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack confidence, you’ll find it difficult to assert yourself while socializing. You’ll probably also be preoccupied with what the other person thinks rather than on the content of what they’re stating.
Hearing loss makes things much worse, as you can imagine, because your misinterpretations could be thought of as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re constantly requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it hard to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
Coming to be a better communicator requires becoming a better listener, but how can you become a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have a few choices, but because hearing aids have come so far in terms of identifying and amplifying speech, they actually are the ideal solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a host of tremendous features made specifically for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models come with background noise suppression, directional microphones, and sophisticated digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without the need to strain to hear speech, you can concentrate all of your energy on understanding the message. Then, as you become a more effective active-listener, your confidence, assertiveness, and speaking skills will all take care of themselves.
If you have hearing loss and you’re prepared to start strengthening your distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.