Communication is consistently cited 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.”
Similarly, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of roughly 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 valuable when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From preserving healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication affects virtually every aspect of our lives. Working to improve our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we desire to make some positive changes.
How to become a highly effective communicator
Coming to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it will require some basic skills and the willingness to practice.
The initial step is to recognize that the objective of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of information where all parties can be heard and understood. This requires assertive and articulate speaking skills, but, just as critically, requires robust listening skills.
The fact 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 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.
Developing listening skills, then, is the single most important thing you can do to become a more effective communicator. And while active listening is often challenging in its own right, hearing loss makes things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening requires investing all attention to the speaker. Only by completely understanding the communication can you craft a relevant and significant response, and that’s why inadequate speakers are almost always distracted listeners.
But what brings about 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 recognize how difficult it can be to pay attention. You’re more inclined to be focusing on on your own thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to lose out on crucial non-verbal signs and to misinterpret what others are saying.
With respect to stress, hearing loss by itself is a significant source. You may feel anxious about missing out on important information or coming up with awkward responses. And, the battle to hear speech in the existence of hearing loss is a source of anxiety and strain itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is difficult because our minds have the normal propensity 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. Keeping within the present moment and concentrating on the speaker is the only way 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 trying to figure out what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The persistent catch-up virtually ensures 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 agitated with a message that the other person never actually intended to send.
This at minimum wastes time and in the worst case 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 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 comprehend the message. If you’re frequently asking for clarification on simplistic points, it makes it difficult to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
Becoming 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 advanced so far with respect to recognizing and amplifying speech, they really are the ideal solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a number of amazing features made primarily for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models come with background noise suppression, directional microphones, and sophisticated digital processing so that speech comes through loud and clear.
Without having 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 ready to start strengthening your distraction-free listening skills, schedule your hearing test today.