Communication is reliably cited as one of the most—if not the most—significant factors to building 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 nearly 600 employers discovered that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among employers. In fact, of five major 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 impacts nearly every part of our lives. Attempting 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
Coming to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it will require some elementary skills and the motivation to practice.
The first step is to understand that the objective of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and appreciated. This requires assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as significantly, requires powerful listening skills.
In fact, listening skills may be the most important component of communication. The explanation is very simple: if you cannot understand what is being said, you won’t have the ability to formulate a relevant and meaningful reply. This failure to understand is the root cause of countless 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 can be challenging 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 totally understanding the communication can you produce a relevant and substantive response, and that’s why inadequate speakers are nearly always preoccupied listeners.
But what brings about 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 focus your attention. You’re more liable to be focusing on on your personal thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to miss out on essential non-verbal signs and to misread what others are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss by itself is a considerable source. You may feel anxious about missing important ideas 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 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 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 losing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The continual catching-up almost guarantees that you’ll never completely understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both force you to misunderstand the message. This presents the chance of you becoming upset or irritated 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 individual who is persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack self-confidence, you’ll find it difficult to assert yourself while socializing. 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 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 sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
Becoming a better communicator requires becoming a better listener, but how can you come to be a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have a few options, but because hearing aids have advanced so far with respect to identifying and amplifying speech, they actually are the perfect solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a host of outstanding features made primarily for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models have 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 comprehending 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 prepared to start building distraction-free listening skills, arrange your hearing test today.