Communication is reliably reported as one of the most—if not the most—important factors to strengthening and sustaining 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.”
Likewise, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of nearly 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among recruiters. In fact, of five major skill sets employers consider most important when making a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to being promoted, communication influences virtually every aspect of our lives. Seeking to enhance our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to begin if we want to make some positive improvements.
How to become an effective communicator
Coming to be an effective communicator is not complicated, but it does require some basic skills and the disposition to practice.
The first step is to understand that the goal of any communication situation is an honest, open-ended exchange of ideas where all individuals can be heard and appreciated. This calls for assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as critically, requires powerful listening skills.
The fact is, 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 articulate 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 will make things even trickier.
Hearing loss and the barriers to active listening
Active listening requires dedicating all attention to the speaker. Only by fully understanding the communication can you craft a relevant and substantial reply, and that’s why inadequate speakers are almost always preoccupied 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 overly stressed or anxious, you know how difficult it can be to focus your attention. You’re more likely to be focused on your own thoughts and feelings 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.
In terms of stress, hearing loss itself is a leading source. You may become anxious about missing out on 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 by itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is challenging because our minds have the natural propensity to wander. You can’t both pay attention to the speaker and daydream, read your email, text, and prepare what you’re going to say next. Remaining inside of the present moment and concentrating 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 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 ensures that you’ll never completely understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both cause you to misinterpret the message. This introduces 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 at worst produces bad feelings. Not to mention the irritation of the individual 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 saying.
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 continually requesting clarification on simple 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 come to be a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have several choices, 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 host of amazing features made especially 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 needing to strain to hear speech, you can concentrate all of your efforts on understanding the message. Then, as you become a better active-listener, your 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, book your hearing test today.