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 just as important at work: one 2014 survey of roughly 600 employers found that communication skills are the most in-demand skill set among recruiters. In fact, of five leading skill sets employers consider most important when rendering a hiring decision, communications skills top the list.
From sustaining healthy relationships to getting hired to getting promoted, communication influences almost every aspect of our lives. Seeking to develop our communication skills, then, isn’t a bad place to start if we want to make some positive improvements.
How to become a highly effective communicator
Becoming an effective communicator is not terribly complicated, but it will require some basic skills and the motivation to practice.
The initial step is to recognize that the goal of any communication situation is a genuine, open-ended exchange of information where all parties can be heard and understood. This requires assertive and articulate speaking abilities, but, just as importantly, requires robust listening skills.
The reality is, listening skills may be the most significant component of communication. The reason is very simple: if you fail to understand what is being said, you won’t be able to articulate a relevant and significant response. 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 superior communicator. And while active listening is often challenging in its own right, hearing loss makes things even harder.
Hearing loss and the obstacles to active listening
Active listening necessitates devoting all attention to the speaker. Only by completely comprehending the communication can you craft a relevant and substantial response, and that’s why ineffective speakers are nearly always preoccupied listeners.
But what triggers the distraction?
Here are four common 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 understand how difficult it can be to pay attention. You’re more liable to be focused on your personal thoughts and feelings rather than on the speaker’s, and you’re very likely to lose out on critical non-verbal signals and to misread what others are saying.
Regarding stress, hearing loss by itself is a leading source. You may feel anxious about missing important ideas or coming up with embarrassing responses. And, the struggle to hear speech in the presence of hearing loss is a source of stress and strain by itself.
Distraction # 2: Lack of focus
Active listening is difficult because our minds have the normal inclination to wander. You can’t simultaneously listen to the speaker and daydream, check your email, text, and plan 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 points of the speaker’s communication.
Hearing loss produces a lack of focus because it removes you from the present moment. If you’re working to determine what the speaker just said, you’re also losing out on what they’re saying at the moment. The constant catch-up virtually guarantees that you’ll never completely understand the message.
Distraction # 3: Misunderstanding
Stress and lack of focus can both lead you to misread the message. This introduces 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 in the worst case produces bad feelings. Not to mention the irritation 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 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 thought of as a sign that you just don’t comprehend the message. If you’re regularly 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 become a better listener if you have hearing loss? You have several choices, but because hearing aids have advanced so far with respect to identifying and amplifying speech, they really are the perfect solution.
Modern digital hearing aids have a variety of extraordinary features made primarily for speech recognition. Many hearing aid models come with background noise suppression, directional microphones, and state-of-the-art 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 self-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, arrange your hearing test today.