Communication is consistently cited as one of the most—if not the most—important factors to building and maintaining 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 just as important at work: one 2014 survey of about 600 employers discovered that communication skills are the most in-demand set of skills among recruiters. In fact, of five major skill sets employers consider most valuable when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication impacts virtually every aspect of our lives. Attempting to develop our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we want 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 willingness to practice.
The initial step is to acknowledge that the goal of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and understood. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as critically, requires strong listening skills.
In fact, listening skills may be the most important part of communication. The explanation is simple: if you fail to understand what is being said, you won’t be able to formulate a relevant and meaningful response. This lack of ability to understand is the root cause of countless misunderstandings, quarrels, and bad feelings.
Improving listening skills, then, is the single most important thing you can do to become a more effective communicator. And while active listening is often difficult in its own right, hearing loss will make things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening demands dedicating all attention to the speaker. Only by thoroughly understanding the communication can you produce a relevant and significant response, and that’s why inadequate speakers are nearly always distracted listeners.
But what triggers the distraction?
Here are four common 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 know how difficult it can be to listen closely. You’re more liable to be focusing on on your personal thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to miss out on critical non-verbal signs and to misinterpret what others are saying.
In terms of stress, hearing loss by itself is a leading source. You may become anxious about missing important information or coming up with embarrassing responses. And, the battle to hear speech in the presence 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 both listen to the speaker and daydream, read your email, text, and plan what you’re going to say next. Remaining within the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only method to pick up on the subtle details of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss produces a lack of focus because it takes you outside the present moment. If you’re trying to determine what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The constant catching-up almost ensures that you’ll never totally understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both get you to misinterpret the message. This introduces the chance 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 confidence, you’ll find it difficult to assert yourself while communicating. 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 much worse, as you can imagine, because your misinterpretations could be thought of as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re frequently asking for clarification on simple points, it makes it difficult to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
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 come so far with respect to identifying and amplifying speech, they actually are the ideal solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a variety of outstanding features made especially 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 focus all of your energy on comprehending 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 building distraction-free listening skills, book your hearing test today.