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For better or for worse, meetings are a key part of working life. You might spend more time in meetings than you think, and studies show that middle managers usually spend 35% of their time meeting co-workers. For those in upper management, you likely spend half of your time locked in the meeting room. And this number is rising – the time Americans spend in meetings has risen by 10% each year since 2000.
Working with Hearing Loss
The Hearing Loss Association of America found that 60% of Americans with hearing loss are still working or in education. This means that over half of the working population may be struggling to understand their colleagues in meetings and learning institutions across the country. This lack of understanding might be the reason those with untreated hearing loss typically make on average $20,000 less per year than those who wear hearing aids! This makes sense: communication is the bedrock of all well-functioning teams and if communication breaks down, then productivity will suffer. That’s why it’s so important for those with hearing loss to follow certain strategies to maximize their effectiveness in meetings.
Nonverbal Cues to Help You in Meetings
For anyone looking to pick up on non-verbal cues, it can be helpful to learn from those who use them all day, every day. Laurie Achin is deaf, and she’s an American Sign Language faculty member at Northeastern University. She is an expert in studying facial expressions, gestures, and body language to find the nuances that add layers of meaning to people’s words. A lot can be inferred through how a person walks, sits in a chair, or takes a sip of water. What can we learn from her and others like her in order to become more effective in meetings?
Recognize the way people show understanding
Many people rely on backchannels to make sure they’ve been understood. These are the ‘uh huhs’ and ‘hmms’ we say when listening to someone speak. As these are less accessible to those with hearing loss, try leading by example and nodding along when you are understanding a point that someone has made. We humans tend to mirror the actions of our peers, and this can influence others to communicate visually rather than audibly.
Be aware of body language after any important point that you are making. If your colleagues are nodding along then it is obviously a good sign – as is eye contact while you are talking.
Recognize signals that others want to speak
If someone is restless in their chair when you’re speaking, it usually means that your colleague wants to speak, so make some space to allow them to enter the conversation. If you are in an online meeting without video, you won’t be able to notice small things like these. In that case, it is useful to establish a period of silence at the end of each section, which allows space for people to add their own thoughts or ask any questions they might have. Another way to enhance communication in an online meeting is to use a program that allows other users to send public messages during the meeting without interrupting the speaker.
Recognize signs that someone needs to interrupt
You can usually tell when someone wants to interrupt. Interrupting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes your colleague may have a pertinent point to add to the topic that everyone needs to hear. While some approaches to interrupting might seem a little rude, such as tapping someone on the shoulder or a waving your hand to get attention, there are other ways to interject a thought into the conversation.
The solution is to ensure that everyone has a chance to speak. You’ll know that someone wants to interrupt if they’re squirming in their chair, leaning forward, or even raising their shoulders towards their ears. Noticing these nonverbals and giving them a chance to speak will solve the tendency of people to interrupt each other, and give everyone an opportunity to listen more attentively to all opinions.
Take steps to treat your hearing loss with Kenwood Hearing Centers
In addition to these communication tips, wearing hearing aids to treat your hearing loss is one of the most important ways to ensure you have a happy and successful working life. For a comprehensive hearing exam and expert hearing aid fitting, contact Kenwood Hearing Centers today!