Communication is consistently cited as one of the most—if not the most—important factors to strengthening and maintaining 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 just as important at work: one 2014 survey of roughly 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among employers. In fact, of five major skill sets employers consider most important when rendering a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From maintaining healthy relationships to getting hired to being promoted, communication affects virtually every element of our lives. Working to enhance our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to begin if we desire to make some positive changes.
How to become a highly effective communicator
Becoming an effective communicator is not complicated, but it does require some basic skills and the motivation to practice.
A good place to start is to realize that the goal of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of information where all individuals can be heard and acknowledged. This demands assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as importantly, requires robust listening skills.
In truth, listening skills may be the most significant component of communication. The explanation is very simple: if you are unable to understand what is being said, you won’t have the capacity to articulate a relevant and significant reply. This lack of ability to understand is the underlying cause of countless misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.
Developing 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 makes things even harder.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening necessitates dedicating all attention to the speaker. Only by totally comprehending the message can you craft a relevant and substantive reply, and that’s why inadequate speakers are nearly always distracted listeners.
But what causes 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 understand how challenging it can be to concentrate. You’re more liable to be focused on your personal thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to miss out on crucial non-verbal signals and to misinterpret what other people are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss by itself is a considerable source. You may feel anxious about missing important information or coming up with embarrassing responses. And, the battle to hear speech in the existence of hearing loss is a source of stress and strain itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the normal tendency to wander. You can’t simultaneously listen to the speaker and daydream, read your email, text, and plan what you’re going to say next. Staying inside of the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s communication.
Hearing loss creates a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re trying to determine what the speaker just said, you’re also missing out on what they’re saying right now. The constant catching-up almost ensures that you’ll never properly understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both force you to misinterpret the message. This presents the possibility of you becoming upset or annoyed 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 persistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack confidence, you’ll find it very difficult to assert yourself while socializing. You’ll likely also be preoccupied with what the other person thinks rather than on the content of what they’re stating.
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 requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it hard to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
Coming to be 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 several options, but because hearing aids have come so far in terms of identifying and amplifying speech, they really are the ideal solution.
Modern digital hearing aids have a number of tremendous features made specifically 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 having to strain to hear speech, you can focus all of your energy 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 ready to start building distraction-free listening skills, book your hearing test today.