Communication is consistently reported as one of the most—if not the most—crucial factors to strengthening and preserving healthy relationships. According to 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 equally important at work: one 2014 survey of approximately 600 employers discovered 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 preserving healthy relationships to getting hired to being promoted, communication impacts almost every aspect of our lives. Working to enhance our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we desire to make some positive improvements.
How to become a highly effective communicator
Growing to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it does require some elementary skills and the disposition to practice.
The first step is to realize that the objective of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and appreciated. This calls for assertive and articulate speaking skills, but, just as significantly, requires strong listening skills.
The reality is, listening skills may be the most vital part of communication. The reason is simple: if you fail to understand what is being said, you won’t have the ability to articulate a relevant and meaningful response. This lack of ability to understand is the underlying cause of countless misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.
Developing listening skills, then, is the single most significant thing you can do to become a more effective communicator. And while active listening is often difficult on its own, hearing loss makes things even harder.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening calls for dedicating all attention to the speaker. Only by thoroughly comprehending the communication can you produce a relevant and significant reply, and that’s why inadequate speakers are almost always distracted listeners.
But what brings about the distraction?
Here are four common sources of distraction and how hearing loss tends to make things even worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you know how challenging it can be to focus your attention. You’re more liable to be concentrated on your own thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to lose out on essential non-verbal signals and to misread what other people are saying.
In terms of stress, hearing loss by itself is a considerable source. You may become anxious about missing out on important ideas or coming up with awkward responses. And, the battle to hear speech in the existence of hearing loss is a source of stress and strain by itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is difficult because our minds have the natural inclination 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 inside of the present moment and concentrating on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle details of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss creates 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 right now. The constant 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 misinterpret the message. This presents the chance of you becoming upset or annoyed with a message that the other person never actually meant to send.
This at the very least wastes time and at worst produces bad feelings. Not to mention the irritation of the individual who is consistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack self-confidence, you’ll find it very 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, of course, because your misinterpretations could be thought of as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re regularly requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it hard to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
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 several options, but because hearing aids have advancedso far in terms of identifying and amplifying speech, they really are the ideal solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a host of outstanding features made specifically for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models have background noise suppression, directional microphones, and innovative digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without having 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 ready to start building distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.