Communication is regularly cited as one of the most—if not the most—crucial 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.”
Similarly, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of about 600 employers discovered that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among recruiters. In fact, of five major skill sets employers consider most important when rendering a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication impacts virtually every element of our lives. Striving to enhance our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to begin if we wish to make some positive improvements.
How to become a highly effective communicator
Becoming an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it will require some basic skills and the motivation to practice.
Step one is to recognize that the goal of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of information where all parties can be heard and understood. This calls for assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as importantly, requires strong listening skills.
The reality is, listening skills may be the most significant component of communication. The reason is simple: if you cannot understand what is being said, you won’t be able to articulate a relevant and meaningful response. This lack of ability to understand is the root cause of many 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 obstacles to active listening
Active listening demands devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by thoroughly understanding the communication can you develop a relevant and substantial reply, and that’s why ineffective speakers are almost always preoccupied listeners.
But what induces the distraction?
Here are four typical sources of distraction and how hearing loss has a tendency to make things worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been overly stressed or anxious, you understand how challenging it can be to listen closely. You’re more likely to be focused on your own thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to miss out on critical non-verbal signs and to misread what other people are saying.
With respect to stress, hearing loss by itself is a significant source. You may become anxious about missing important information 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 normal tendency to wander. You can’t both listen 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 communication.
Hearing loss creates a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re attempting to determine what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying right now. The continual catching-up almost guarantees that you’ll never completely understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both get you to misunderstand the message. This presents 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 individual who is consistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack confidence, you’ll find it very 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 saying.
Hearing loss makes things worse, as you can imagine, because your misinterpretations could be perceived as a sign that you just don’t comprehend the message. If you’re continually asking for clarification on simplistic points, it makes it hard to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
Becoming a better communicator necessitates becoming a better listener, but how can you become a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have several choices, but because hearing aids have come so far with respect to recognizing and amplifying speech, they actually are the ideal solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a number of fantastic features made exclusively 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 focus all of your energy 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 start strengthening your distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.