No matter where you work, communication is key to doing your job well. Although we are living and working in the digital age, the most popular form of communication, by a wide margin, is still face-to-face verbal communication. It is also the most recommended method of communication for people with hearing loss.
According to a 2018 report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, in-person verbal communications were favored by 49% of employees at US companies. The second most favored form of communication was email, far behind at 11%. When respondents were asked to pick their top three forms of communication, in-person conversations were again first at 71%; telephone conversations were next at 63%; and emails were third at 37%. By contrast, text messaging was far behind at 15%.1
We’re not as digital as we think we are.
Not only is face-to-face communication still preferred, effective listening and speaking skills could be key to economic success. According to a study by the Better Hearing Institute, people with unaided hearing loss earned an average of $20,000 less annually than those who wore hearing aids.2 For those with hearing loss, hearing device technology is one way to help maximize earning potential. However, learning effective listening and speaking skills will also contribute to improved overall workplace performance for those with, and without, hearing loss.
Here are some simple tips that can help improve workplace communication for everyone; for people with hearing loss, they are especially critical.
Be aware of your body language. During face-to-face meetings, your facial expressions, hand gestures, and body posture convey information, whether you are aware of it or not. For example, a person leaning forward in their chair is seen as relaxed and ready to listen whereas a person with their legs and arms crossed is generally viewed as detached and often defensive.
Make eye contact. This shows the speaker that you are actively involved in the discussion. When you are the speaker, eye contact helps keep your audience engaged.
Allow time for questions before moving on to the next topic. Provide a summary at the end of each agenda item, as well as at the end of the meeting, to reinforce key information. When appropriate, after a group or one-on-one meeting, send a quick recap of decisions and next steps via email to all attendees with a request for comments. This helps to ensure that what was said, and what was decided, was understood by all.
Use “active listening” techniques. Active listening requires that you concentrate, understand, respond, and remember what was said. While passive listeners may be able to repeat the speaker’s words, active listeners can repeat what was said in their own words. There are significant differences in comprehension and retention.
These four tips focus on speaking and listening behaviors for improved face-to-face communications. But untreated hearing loss makes personal communications in the workplace even more difficult. If you suspect that you may have a hearing loss, call us to schedule a hearing screening.
1Communication barriers in the modern workplace. The Economist Intelligence Unit. Kevin Plumberg, Editor. http://perspectives.eiu.com/sites/default/files/EIU_Lucidchart-Communication%20barriers%20in%20the%20modern%20workplace.pdf. Published online March 26, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2018.
2Clason, D. Hearing loss in the workplace.Healthy Hearing website. https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52738-Hearing-loss-in-the-workplace. PublishedonlineMarch 17, 2017. Accessed August 9, 2018.