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Communication At Work: May is Better Hearing and Speech Month!

Each year the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association designates as Better Hearing and Speech Month. Let’s take this opportunity to celebrate! If you or someone you love has a challenge in the area of hearing or speech, that is all the more reason to celebrate the month and to take action in the direction of solutions. Rather than waiting for the right time to seek treatment and assistance for your hearing needs, this month is the perfect opportunity to move in the direction of hearing assistance rather than struggling with a lack of treatment.

Not only does the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association deem the month Better Hearing and Speech Month, but they also choose a theme each year to help us celebrate. This year’s theme is “Communication at Work.” Although many forms of communication at work occur in text, including email, interoffice memos, online chats, and handwritten notes, many other forms of communication occur verbally. Those who continue to go to their workplaces this month will understand the essential nature of clear and precise verbal communication. With tensions running high and essential workers carrying a heavy load, verbal communication takes center stage. Let’s consider some common problems in the workplace when it comes to verbal communication, as well as how you can promote better communication habits when obstacles arise.

Common Communication Problems at Work

When it comes to verbal communication, one of the most common challenges in the workplace has to do with the context of communication. We have all had the experience of a friend, coworker, or loved one telling us something while our minds are focused on something else. Too often that piece of information doesn’t stick in the memory due to interference from other crucial information. If you were focusing on a piece of work, reading, or other communication when that other person tried to talk, you can bet that the message was lost in translation due to an overload of information at the same time.

Another common problem with workplace communication has to do with the style of conversation. Those with important information or tasks to communicate must be careful not to embed that information in another unrelated conversation. If you need to make sure that a coworker completes a task, it is best not to bury that request within another conversation with small talk, personal questions, or a workplace social anecdote. These other topics can mask the important information or task request, hiding it from view.

How to Improve Workplace Communication

If you find yourself struggling to effectively communicate at work, there are steps you can take to improve your environment and styles of verbal conversation. In the first place, you can remedy that common mistake of inappropriate context. Rather than dropping by a person’s office to ask for a task to take place or to pass along a key piece of information, you might want to schedule a conversation. Simply asking ahead can flag the conversation as important in the mind of your coworker. Furthermore, phone calls out of the blue can easily be lost in the sea of workplace activity. Though it might seem like a redundancy, simply texting a person to ask if they have time to talk can work wonders for the efficacy of that conversation, making sure they have devoted their attention. When you do have the chance to talk, be sure to keep the tasks or “action items” clear and to the point. Though there is a place for office chit chat, it should not be intermingled with important task-related information related to the work process.

In addition to these practical concerns with verbal communication, we also know that hearing loss can get in the way of effective communication. Those who struggle to hear may even be reticent to get the treatment and assistance they really need. If you find yourself struggling to hear in workplace conversations, don’t delay getting a hearing test right away. Though you might think you are getting by just fine without assistance, your coworkers might say otherwise, having noticed moments when communication is strained. The test itself is painless, quick, and simple, so you really have nothing to lose! 

Jon Suarez, MS, F/AAA
Jon Suarez, MS, F/AAA
Received his Masters in Audiology from Central Missouri State. He also holds a BS in Communication Disorders and Sciences, and a BA in Philosophy, both from SUNY Plattsburgh. Jon has been a licensed Audiologist since 2004, was certified as a Professional Supervisor for Audiometric Testing, and as an Occupational Hearing Conservationist. Aside from his work in our area, Jon is also associated with, and donates equipment to, All Ears International.
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