Communication is regularly cited as one of the most—if not the most—important factors to strengthening and sustaining 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.”
Similarly, communication skills are just as important at work: one 2014 survey of about 600 employers discovered that communication skills are the most in-demand set of skills among recruiters. In fact, of five major skill sets employers consider most valuable when rendering a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From preserving healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication impacts practically every aspect of our lives. Seeking to develop our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to begin if we desire to make some positive changes.
How to become an effective communicator
Growing to be an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it does require some elementary skills and the disposition to practice.
Step one is to realize that the goal of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of ideas where all parties can be heard and understood. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking skills, but, just as significantly, requires robust listening skills.
In truth, listening skills may be the most important component of communication. The reason is simple: if you are not able to understand what is being said, you won’t be able to formulate a relevant and significant reply. This failure to understand is the underlying cause of countless misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.
Improving listening skills, then, is the single most important thing you can do to become a better communicator. And while active listening can be challenging in its own right, hearing loss will make things even harder.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening calls for investing all attention to the speaker. Only by thoroughly understanding the communication can you develop a relevant and significant response, and that’s why ineffective speakers are almost always distracted listeners.
But what causes the distraction?
Here are four common sources of distraction and how hearing loss has a tendency to make things even worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you know how difficult it can be to focus your attention. You’re more likely to be focusing on on your personal thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to lose out on essential non-verbal signals and to misread what other people are saying.
With respect to stress, hearing loss itself is a major source. You may feel anxious about missing out on important information or coming up with awkward replies. And, the battle to hear speech in the presence of hearing loss is a source of anxiety and strain itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal inclination to wander. You can’t simultaneously listen to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text message, and plan what you’re going to say next. Staying within the present moment and concentrating on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s communication.
Hearing loss brings about a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re working to determine what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying right now. The continuous catching-up virtually guarantees that you’ll never properly understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both force you to misunderstand the message. This introduces the chance 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 irritation of the individual who is persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack confidence, you’ll find it difficult to assert yourself while communicating. You’ll probably also be preoccupied with what the other person thinks rather than on the content of what they’re saying.
Hearing loss makes things worse, as you can imagine, because your misinterpretations could be thought of as a sign that you just don’t comprehend the message. If you’re frequently requesting clarification on simple points, it makes it difficult to feel confident enough to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
Becoming a better communicator necessitates 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 perfect solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a number of wonderful features made exclusively for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models come with background noise suppression, directional microphones, and innovative digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without having to struggle to hear speech, you can focus all of your efforts on comprehending 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 ready to begin building distraction-free listening skills, arrange your hearing test today.