Being an Effective Listener: Communication is the Key to Connection
“We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak,” said Epictetus, the Greek philosopher. Being a good listener is a crucial part of good communication. According to a study from Wright State University in Ohio, conducted with 8,000 participants employed in businesses, hospitals, universities, and military and government agencies, “the average person listens with only 25 percent efficiency.” The good news is, there are ways to become a better listener.
Why is Effective Listening Important?
We’ve all experienced, at one point or another, the distinct feeling that someone may be hearing us speak, but does not register anything we are saying. This could leave us feeling frustrated and unheard. Effective listening is also important on the job, as we glean information for our roles from instruction. Aside from the important information you may gather in a workplace, “effective listening is a way of showing concern…that fosters cohesive bonds, commitment, and trust.”
Many of us may believe ourselves to be effective listeners. Effective listening has been defined as “actively absorbing the information given to you by a speaker, showing that you are listening and interested, and providing feedback to the speaker so that he or she knows the message was received…Effective listeners show speakers that they have been heard and understood.”
How Hearing Loss Stands in the Way of Effective Listening
Hearing loss interferes with our ability to recognize speech. Many people who experience hearing loss complain that while they are able to hear, it is difficult for them to understand. This is a crucial difference between just listening to someone speak, and effective listening.
Speech recognition is one of the greatest challenges with hearing loss. For some, depending on the frequency and configuration of their hearing loss, the higher-frequency voices of women and children may be difficult to understand.
It’s no surprise then that hearing loss could harm interpersonal relationships. In fact, hearing loss has been linked to increased levels of isolation and social withdrawal. When people struggle to hear in big social settings, or even one-on-one, they tend to avoid social gatherings. In the long term, this isolation could lead to increased anxiety and depression.
This can be solved with one simple first step: schedule a hearing test. If you have experienced changes in your hearing, or if your loved one has been struggling with untreated hearing loss, taking a hearing test could change everything. By identifying the degree and configuration of a potential hearing loss, we’ll work with you to find the best solution to get you back on track to healthy hearing.
Tips for Being a Good Listener
According to Paul Sacco, a listening expert and assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, “We all have a good listener within us. It all just depends on the ability and desire to be mindful of where you are and who you’re talking to. A lot of us are focused on the mechanics of listening – eye contact, nodding your head – but for good listeners, there is a naturalness to that behavior that we should all aspire to.” Good listeners tend to be present, empathetic, aware of their shortcomings, have an open mind, are okay with being uncomfortable, and are emotionally intelligent.
When it comes to our partners and spouses, effective listening can be difficult. According to Susan Quilliam, a relationship coach from the UK and author of Stop Arguing, Start Talking, “That security, history, and intimacy – being able to finish each other’s sentences, treating your partner as if he or she is part of yourself – can mean our listening gets a little fuzzy. There’s a kind of mutual dependency and mental enmeshment.” To re-establish better listening, Quilliam recommends spending 10 minutes a day with your partner, with a timer, and listen to the other person talk for five minutes each.
Better Speech and Hearing Month from the American Speech Language Hearing Association
Every May, the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) raises awareness about hearing loss and communication disorders. For May 2017, ASHA’s theme is “Communication: The Key to Connection.” With the understanding that communication is at the foundation of every healthy relationship, Better Speech and Hearing Month is geared toward encouraging people to get their hearing tested.
It is estimated that Americans wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience changes in their hearing until they take a hearing test. By addressing hearing loss early, we are better equipped to tackle related problems, such as difficulty with communication and social isolation.