Communication is regularly cited as one of the most—if not the most—significant factors to strengthening and preserving healthy relationships. As stated 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 making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From preserving healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication affects virtually every part of our lives. Striving to enhance our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to begin if we want to make some positive improvements.
How to become a highly effective communicator
Growing to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it does call for some basic skills and the willingness to practice.
The first step is to recognize that the goal 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 skills, but, just as importantly, requires strong listening skills.
As a matter of fact, listening skills may be the most vital component of communication. The reason is simple: if you fail to understand what is being said, you won’t have the capacity to articulate a relevant and meaningful response. This failure to understand is the underlying 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 difficult in its own right, hearing loss makes things even harder.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening demands devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by thoroughly comprehending the communication can you craft a relevant and substantial reply, and that’s why inadequate speakers are almost always preoccupied listeners.
But what produces the distraction?
Here are four typical 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 know how difficult it can be to listen closely. You’re more likely to be focusing on on your own thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to lose out on critical non-verbal signals and to misread what others are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss by itself is a considerable source. You may become anxious about missing 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 difficult because our minds have the natural propensity to wander. You can’t simultaneously pay attention to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Keeping within the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only method to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss brings about a lack of focus because it takes you out of the present moment. If you’re attempting to determine what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The persistent catching-up almost ensures that you’ll never properly understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both cause you to misread the message. This introduces the chance of you becoming upset or annoyed with a message that the other person never actually intended to send.
This at minimum wastes time and at worst 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 likely also be preoccupied with what the other person thinks rather than on the content of what they’re saying.
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 consistently requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it difficult to feel confident enough to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
Becoming 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 with respect to recognizing and amplifying speech, they actually are the ideal solution.
Modern digital hearing aids have a number of powerful features made especially for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models have background noise suppression, directional microphones, and state-of-the-art 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 building distraction-free listening skills, book your hearing test today.