You would think listening and hearing go hand in hand but they don’t. For those of us with hearing loss, we listen with our whole body; mind, eyes, what we have left of our hearing and sometimes intuition. There is complete focus as we listen to others and even though we ask for repeats, we are good listeners (as long as we are accommodated). Many people have commented on my good listening skills in spite of a few repeats and my hearing loss. People feel heard and they appreciate the attention they receive from me.
Out of curiosity I googled listening skills to see if I could validate the hard of hearing as good listeners. How close is it to the way we communicate? I came across the Mind Tools web page and we are right on the money. Check it out their first recommendation…
- Look at the speaker directly.
- Put aside distracting thoughts.
- Listen to the speaker’s body language
- Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting.
Our deaf/hard of hearing center had a seminar last week on Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss. Michael Bower flew in from the Seattle area and presented the above subject and also gave us a short class on non-verbal communication (body language). She told us the 3 main parts of communication are the words we say, the tone we use while saying the words and the way we look while talking. The words we use in communication weigh in at about 7%. The tone while saying those words rates 38% and the way we look while talking speaks volumes at 55%. She was trying to tell us how words don’t matter so much but someone mentioned how much harder communication is without that 7% of words. She gave us that one (her husband is hard of hearing). So body language is appears to be important to hearing people on the communication level. They probably just don’t use it as much as we do.
Next Mind Tools tells us to show that we are listening:
- Nod occasionally.
- Smile and use other facial expressions.
- Note your posture and make sure it’s open and inviting.
- Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes and uh-huh.
Did anyone else smile while reading this? I did. This could be instructions for “How to Bluff.” This is exactly how we fake our way through an entire conversation. It works because people keep talking to us until we mess up and respond inappropriately, then we have to back pedal. (I don’t bluff much anymore. It cheats everyone out of time.) I think I do all the above even when I’m understanding what’s being said which is why it comes so naturally for bluffing.
The next step for active listening is, provide feedback, summarize the conversation at some point to be sure you’re understanding the other person correctly. I do this but it goes something like this, “What? You’re going to pick your seat?” Then I found out the person was “going to get his keys.”
Step four is to not interrupt the speaker. Being hard of hearing, I have to interrupt now and then to find out where we are. “Wait-wait-wait! You went way too fast for me. Please start again only slower.” And the last step is to respond appropriately. We try to, it just doesn’t always work.
Even though I mess up on a few of these of suggestions, I am good as a listener. After all I know a lot of hearing people out there with bad listening skills. My boyfriend with his ADD is one of them. His thoughts come rapidly, tumbling over one another and non-stop. He interrupts me with totally off topic questions or statements or instead of listening to me, he’s listening to the people behind us in a line or at another table. It’s annoying. I tell people I have a hearing problem and he has a listening problem. And he’s not the only hearing person I know that does this.
For further reading on body language, 3 Key Elements