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

Dr. Li-Korotky
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When the month of May rolls around, we in the hearing health community take the opportunity to celebrate a month of commemoration: Better Hearing and Speech Month! The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has designated the month of May each year as an opportunity to consider an issue related to hearing health and related topics, and they choose a theme for each year’s celebration. This year we are considering the topic “Communication at Work,” indeed a crucial context for hearing, speech, and verbal communication.

Although communication at work is essential no matter the workplace, we also know that workplaces vary widely when it comes to the natural modes of communication. Whereas some types of business find it easiest to communicate verbally through conversations, others are in the habit of writing memos, emails, or delivering other textual modes of communication. Even in these places of business that tend to use written communication as their primary mode, we know that verbal communication is a common and crucial way to get across important ideas. In some businesses, the normal style of conversation might be a random drop-in at a workstation, while others tend to schedule meetings with detailed agendas determined in advance. No matter the style of communication you are most used to in your workplace, conversations are key to success both as an employee and as an employer.

Although verbal communication is vital to workplace success and the satisfaction of employees, we can all recall instances of failed communication, as well. What goes awry when there is a communication breakdown among people in a workplace? Although miscommunication takes many forms, a few basic tips can help pave the way to smoother communication among team members when it comes to verbal conversations. Some of these tips might be commonplace, while others are a helpful reminder to accommodate others in your communication process.

Tips for Healthy Workplace Communication

When it comes to workplace communication, the most important principle to observe is respect for others. The golden rule reminding you to treat others as you would like to be treated also applies to communication styles. In the first place, if you are engaging in verbal communication, try to choose a time that is as convenient as possible for the other person. Rather than dropping into the workstation of a person deeply focused on a task, simply phone or message ahead asking if the time is right to talk. You might be surprised how often the other person says that any time will be fine for a conversation. Simply knowing that a coworker will be dropping by to chat can be enough to prepare a person to receive the information they need to absorb.

A second key to workplace communication is to limit your conversations to necessary topics. Although small talk can forge personal connections between coworkers, it can also become frustrating for a person working on a deadline or with outside pressure. Casual chit chat might seem like a natural way to pass the working day, but it can also be a distraction at times.

Finally, don’t forget to make your point clear. We know that it is important to highlight key information in writing, but we often forget to do the same in spoken conversation. You shouldn’t hesitate to recap the point of your conversation at the end as a reminder to the person you have contacted. Whether it is a task, a piece of information, or a reminder, repetition is not a bad thing when it comes to workplace communication.

Hearing Loss and Workplace Communication

In addition to these basic tips that are useful for anyone in a workplace, another hidden factor can impede efficient communication, as well: hearing loss. Look for signs that the person you are talking to has registered the necessary information before you move on. You might even want to ask for confirmation in some cases. Position yourself in a location facing the person to whom you are speaking and try not to call out across a room whenever possible. And, of course, if you are the person who has untreated hearing loss in the workplace, take the opportunity to schedule a hearing test as soon as possible!

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