Communication is regularly cited as one of the most—if not the most—crucial factors to building and preserving 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 nearly 600 employers discovered that communication skills are the most in-demand set of skills among employers. In fact, of five major skill sets employers consider most important when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to being promoted, communication affects virtually every element of our lives. Attempting to improve our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to start if we desire to make some positive improvements.
How to become an effective communicator
Becoming an effective communicator is not complicated, but it will call for some basic skills and the motivation to practice.
Step one is to recognize that the objective of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and understood. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as importantly, requires robust listening skills.
The reality is, listening skills may be the most significant part of communication. The reason is very simple: if you are unable to understand what is being said, you won’t have the ability to articulate a relevant and significant reply. This failure to understand is the root cause of countless misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.
Improving listening skills, then, is the single most significant thing you can do to become a better communicator. And while active listening is often challenging on its own, hearing loss will make things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening calls for devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by totally understanding the message can you create a relevant and significant reply, and that’s why inadequate speakers are almost always preoccupied listeners.
But what leads to the distraction?
Here are four common sources of distraction and how hearing loss tends to make things worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you understand how difficult it can be to listen closely. You’re more liable to be focusing on on your personal thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to lose out on essential non-verbal signals and to misread what others are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss itself is a considerable source. You may feel anxious about missing out on important information or coming up with awkward responses. And, the struggle to hear speech in the presence of hearing loss is a source of stress and strain itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal tendency to wander. You can’t both pay attention to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Remaining 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 removes you from the present moment. If you’re working to understand what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The continual catching-up virtually ensures that you’ll never totally 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 minimum wastes time and at worst 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 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 worse, not surprisingly, because your misinterpretations could be perceived as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re continually requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it difficult to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
Becoming a better communicator necessitates becoming a better listener, but how can you come to be a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have a few options, but because hearing aids have advancedso far in terms of identifying and amplifying speech, they really are the perfect solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a variety of extraordinary features made primarily 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 having to strain to hear speech, you can concentrate all of your efforts on understanding the message. Then, as you become a better active-listener, your confidence, assertiveness, and speaking skills will all take care of themselves.
If you have hearing loss and you’re prepared to begin strengthening your distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.