Communication is consistently reported as one of the most—if not the most—significant 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.”
Likewise, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of about 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand set of skills among recruiters. In fact, of five leading skill sets employers consider most important when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication influences nearly every part of our lives. Striving to develop our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we desire to make some positive changes.
How to become an effective communicator
Coming to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it will call for some basic skills and the willingness to practice.
The first step is to acknowledge that the goal of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of ideas where all individuals can be heard and acknowledged. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking skills, but, just as critically, requires strong listening skills.
In truth, listening skills may be the most significant component of communication. The explanation is very simple: if you cannot understand what is being said, you won’t have the capacity to articulate a relevant and significant reply. This lack of ability to understand is the root cause of many misunderstandings, quarrels, 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 trickier.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening demands dedicating all attention to the speaker. Only by completely comprehending the message can you develop a relevant and substantial response, and that’s why ineffective speakers are nearly always distracted listeners.
But what causes 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 highly stressed or anxious, you recognize how difficult it can be to concentrate. You’re more liable to be concentrated on your personal thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to miss out on critical non-verbal signals and to misread what other people are saying.
In terms of stress, hearing loss itself is a considerable source. You may become anxious about missing out on important information or coming up with embarrassing 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 natural tendency to wander. You can’t simultaneously listen to the speaker and daydream, read your email, text message, and plan what you’re going to say next. Staying inside of the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only method to pick up on the subtle details of the speaker’s communication.
Hearing loss produces a lack of focus because it takes you out of the present moment. If you’re working to understand what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The constant catch-up virtually guarantees that you’ll never totally understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both get you to misread 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 at worst manufactures bad feelings. Not to mention the aggravation of the person who is consistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack self-confidence, you’ll find it difficult to assert yourself while interacting. 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, of course, because your misinterpretations could be perceived as a sign that you just don’t comprehend the message. If you’re constantly requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it hard to feel confident enough to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
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 choices, but because hearing aids have come so far with respect to identifying and amplifying speech, they actually are the ideal solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a host of exceptional features made primarily 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 strain to hear speech, you can focus all of your energy on understanding the message. Then, as you become a better active-listener, your self-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, schedule your hearing test today.