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.”
Similarly, communication skills are equally important at work: one 2014 survey of nearly 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 being promoted, communication affects almost every aspect of our lives. Seeking to develop our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to begin if we wish to make some positive improvements.
How to become a highly effective communicator
Transforming into an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it does call for some elementary skills and the motivation to practice.
The first step is to recognize that the objective of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of ideas where all parties can be heard and acknowledged. This necessitates assertive and articulate speaking skills, but, just as significantly, requires robust listening skills.
In fact, listening skills may be the most vital 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 formulate a relevant and significant reply. This lack of ability to understand is the root cause of many misunderstandings, arguments, and bad feelings.
Developing listening skills, then, is the single most important thing you can do to become a superior communicator. And while active listening is often difficult on its own, hearing loss makes things even harder.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening calls for investing all attention to the speaker. Only by totally comprehending the message can you develop a relevant and substantial response, and that’s why inadequate speakers are almost always preoccupied listeners.
But what leads to the distraction?
Here are four common 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 recognize how difficult it can be to concentrate. You’re more liable to be focusing on on your own thoughts and emotions rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re likely to miss out on critical non-verbal signals and to misread what others are saying.
With respect to stress, hearing loss by itself is a considerable source. You may feel anxious about missing out on important information or coming up with awkward 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 difficult because our minds have the natural tendency 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. Remaining within the present moment and focusing on the speaker is the only way to pick up on the subtle details of the speaker’s communication.
Hearing loss brings about a lack of focus because it takes you outside the present moment. If you’re working to understand what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying right now. The persistent catch-up almost ensures that you’ll never totally understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both force you to misread the message. This introduces the chance 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 produces 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 very 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 thought of as a sign that you just don’t comprehend the message. If you’re consistently requesting clarification on simplistic points, it makes it hard to feel confident enough to be assertive.
How hearing aids can help
Becoming a better communicator requires becoming a better listener, but how can you become a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have several choices, but because hearing aids have come so far with respect to identifying and amplifying speech, they really are the ideal solution.
Contemporary digital hearing aids have a host of impressive features made especially 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 needing 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 ready to begin building distraction-free listening skills, book your hearing test today.