Communication is reliably reported as one of the most—if not the most—significant factors to building 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 roughly 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand set of skills among employers. 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 being promoted, communication influences virtually every part of our lives. Working to enhance our communication skills, then, is not a bad place to start if we wish to make some positive improvements.
How to become an effective communicator
Growing to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it does call for some elementary skills and the motivation to practice.
Step one is to realize that the goal of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of ideas where all parties can be heard and acknowledged. This demands assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as importantly, requires robust listening skills.
The truth is, listening skills may be the most vital component of communication. The explanation is very simple: if you are not able to understand what is being said, you won’t have the ability to formulate a relevant and meaningful reply. 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 better communicator. And while active listening is often challenging on its own, hearing loss makes things even harder.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening necessitates devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by thoroughly understanding the communication can you craft a relevant and substantive response, and that’s why ineffective speakers are nearly always distracted listeners.
But what causes 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 recognize how difficult it can be to concentrate. You’re more inclined to be focusing on on your own thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to lose out on essential non-verbal signals and to misread what other people are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss itself is a leading source. You may feel anxious about missing important information or coming up with awkward replies. And, the struggle 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 natural inclination to wander. You can’t simultaneously pay attention to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Staying within the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle points of the speaker’s message.
Hearing loss brings about a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re attempting to figure out what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying right now. The continuous catch-up almost guarantees that you’ll never totally understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both cause you to misread the message. This presents the possibility of you becoming upset or irritated 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 consistently misunderstood.
Distraction # 4: Lack of confidence
If you lack self-confidence, you’ll find it 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, of course, because your misinterpretations could be perceived as a sign that you just don’t understand the message. If you’re consistently asking for clarification on simple points, it makes it hard to feel sufficiently confident to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help you
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 advanced so far in terms of identifying and amplifying speech, they actually are the perfect solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a variety of exceptional 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 the need 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 begin building distraction-free listening skills, book your hearing test today.