Communication is consistently reported as one of the most—if not the most—crucial 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 approximately 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set 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 influences nearly every aspect of our lives. Striving to improve our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we want to make some positive changes.
How to become an effective communicator
Transforming into an effective communicator is not complicated, but it will require some elementary skills and the disposition to practice.
The initial step is to understand that the goal of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of ideas where all individuals can be heard and understood. This calls for assertive and articulate speaking skills, but, just as importantly, requires robust listening skills.
The fact 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 formulate a relevant and significant response. This failure to understand is the root cause of many misunderstandings, quarrels, and bad feelings.
Improving 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 will make things even harder.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening necessitates devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by fully understanding the message can you develop a relevant and significant reply, and that’s why inadequate speakers are almost always distracted listeners.
But what leads to the distraction?
Here are four typical sources of distraction and how hearing loss has a tendency to make things even worse:
Distraction # 1: Stress
If you’ve ever been highly stressed or anxious, you understand how difficult it can be to concentrate. You’re more inclined to be concentrated on your personal thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to miss out on essential non-verbal signals and to misinterpret what other people are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss itself is a considerable source. You may become anxious about missing out on important information or coming up with embarrassing replies. And, the struggle to hear speech in the presence of hearing loss is a source of anxiety and strain by 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 message, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Keeping within the present moment and concentrating on the speaker is the only method to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s message.
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 losing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The continuous catch-up virtually guarantees 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 agitated with a message that the other person never actually meant to send.
This at minimum wastes time and at worst produces bad feelings. Not to mention the aggravation of the individual who is persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack confidence, you’ll find it very difficult to assert yourself while interacting. 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, as you can imagine, because your misinterpretations could be thought of as a sign that you just don’t comprehend the message. If you’re continuously asking for clarification on simple points, it makes it hard to feel confident enough 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 choices, but because hearing aids have come so far with respect to identifying and amplifying speech, they really are the perfect solution.
Modern digital hearing aids have a number of powerful features made primarily for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models come with background noise suppression, directional microphones, and advanced digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without needing to struggle to hear speech, you can focus all of your efforts on understanding the message. Then, as you become a more effective active-listener, your self-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, arrange your hearing test today.