In my last post, I wrote about a workshop I attended in Fresno. The workshop was presented by Samuel Trychin, Ph.D. and Janet Trychin, Au.D. (For more information about Sam and Janet, see the January/February 2015 issuue of the HLAA Magazine.) I would like to share some of their great ideas for improving communication. I found that many of these ideas were not new to me, but realized that knowing good communication strategies and practicing good communication strategies are NOT the same thing! I have been found “guilty” in breaking many of these communication rules!
Sam uses the term “communication partner” to refer to the person we are communicating with. The primary communication partner may be your spouse, child, roommate, or parent. However, the most important communication partner is the person you are communicating with right now! So these strategies apply to everyone in your life.
Strategies from the Trychins’ Workshop: “You Never Listen to Me and Other Hearing Loss-Related Stories.”
Communication Partner Guidelines
- Pick the best spot to communicate
- Get the listener’s attention before talking
- Be sure your face can be clearly seen
- Do not have objects in your mouth
- Speak slowly and clearly
- Rephrase if you are not understood
- Inform listener when changing subject
- Don’t shout
- Try to be patient, calm, and relaxed
- Speak to, not about, the person who is HOH
- Use facial expressions and gestures
- Ask for tips to improve communication
- Practice relaxation skills beforehand
- Pick the best spot to communicate
- Anticipate difficult situations-plan ahead
- Inform others how best to talk to you
- Pay attention to the speaker
- Look for visual cues of what is said
- Do not bluff (don’t pretend to understand when you don’t)
- Inform the speaker about what you heard
- Reinforce speaker’s helpful communication
- Set realistic goals for understanding
- Ask for key words in writing if needed
- Arrange for breaks if meetings are long
Lessons I Learned
1. Guilty as Charged!
One of my rules at home is, “Don’t talk to me from another room!!” It is a hard habit to break, but my husband, Don, has become very good about this. However, I learned that I don’t follow my own rule! Yes, I don’t want Don to yell at me from another room, but I have been doing just that to him! If I want to talk to him, I need to go to him. I can’t expect him to come running to me every time I want to talk!
2. My Interpreter
Oops! Another thing Sam talked about really hit home. I need to manage my own communication difficulties. Don is NOT my interpreter. I have come to rely on him to tell me what someone said. Instead, I need to let the person I didn’t hear know I am hard-of-hearing and ask them to please repeat. This is going to be a hard pattern to change as it is so much easier to turn to Don with the “Huh?” look on my face and have him tell me, but it is not a healthy habit, so I will work on it.
3. Keep Calm and Communicate
Something I never considered before is that when I get anxious and stressed about not understanding, this anxiety is communicated to my communication partner. As his/her level of anxiety rises, the situation becomes less pleasant. Why not smile, make eye contact, take a deep breath, let the person know you have a hearing problem, and ask for clarification? An important point here (and in #2 above) is not to just ask the person to repeat, but to identify yourself as someone with a hearing loss. This helps the other person to understand the problem. It’s not that you are dense, inattentive, or a trouble-maker. You are just “a bit deaf”! (“a bit deaf” is an expression I learned from a British woman)
Resources for Better Communication
www.trychin.com – Sam has several books and DVD’s including:
Communication Rules – a book and DVD that provide specific examples of what people should and should not do in communication situations.
Living with Hearing Loss: Workbook – a workbook that provides exercises known to be helpful in changing communication patterns and improving relationships.
Rachel Henrickson, Audiologist at The University of Kansas Physicians, created this video which has some great role playing examples to illustrate good and poor communication behaviors.
The Hearing Loss Association of America also has some good tips on their website: http://hearingloss.org/content/living-hearing-loss
I have heard from so many couples who have problems because one partner has a hearing loss. It always seems that one or the other partner refuses to change his/her behavior. Just as you would sit down and talk about what to do if one partner was unexpectedly confined to a wheel chair, you need to sit down and talk about solutions to living with a hearing loss. Start small. Pick one or two strategies and try them out. My guess is that you will feel so much better that you will want to continue to improve. So, just try it!
Do you have other ideas you have found successful? Please leave a comment and share it with others! Thanks!