A – Attention Must Be Obtained
The cycle of communication is actually a fairly complex system, where there are multiple issues that can impact the success of easy conversation. The complexity of communication may be perceived negatively, in that when there are breakdowns, there are several areas that need to be assessed in order to determine the cause of the breakdowns. However, having a multi-layered communication process also allows for people to compensate when there is a known area of breakdowns. For example, when a person has a known hearing loss, apart from correcting the hearing loss as much as possible with amplification (hearing aids and assistive listening devices) the person may also make use of visual information and any other extra resources to help them fill in the gaps when auditory information is missed. If you are communicating with someone who has a hearing loss, allowing them to take advantage of all of the other layers of communication to help them fill in the blanks when they’ve missed auditory information, can be very helpful. One way that this is done is by obtaining a person’s attention prior to speaking to them.
Obtaining a person’s attention before you begin speaking is helpful because it gives the person you are speaking with a moment to give you their full attention and focus, as well as look at your face and make use of additional visual cues. For example, let’s take a look at our scenario:
The man is relaxing on the couch. The television is on and he’s got a newspaper beside him. In all likelihood, his attention is probably already divided between the TV and the newspaper. The woman walks up behind him and quickly tells him that the boxes need to be unloaded. She does not have the man’s attention and he cannot see her face. As a result, he does not hear what she has said. A better way for the woman to begin her conversation with the man would have been to sit down beside him, say his name or touch him on the shoulder to gain his attention, wait for confirmation from him that she has his attention (such as a reply or eye contact), and then proceed to explain about the boxes.
Another way to set yourself up for successful communication, is to make use of lead-in statements. A lead-in statement is a way of beginning your conversation with a person by connecting that person to the issue you’d like to discuss. For example, the woman in the scenario jumps right to the matter at hand—Alan is dropping off the boxes. However, if the man on the couch was not aware of the plan for Alan to drop off the boxes, or if it was something that was initially discussed some time ago and now he has forgotten, it would be difficult for the man on the couch to quickly process what the woman has said. However, if the woman sat down on the couch, obtained the man’s attention, and then started by using a lead-in statement: “do you remember several weeks ago when we discussed how Alan needed a place to store some extra things—and we agreed to take some boxes? Well, Alan is here now and the boxes need to be unloaded.” If the woman had started her conversation with the man on the couch in this manner, she would likely have avoided any confusion and requests for repetition.
There will often be issues that cause breakdowns in communication, and hearing loss is just one of those issues. By taking the time to gain a person’s attention and by using lead-in statements to initiate conversation, you are setting yourself up for successful communication, no matter what kind of breakdowns lay ahead.
Join us again in two weeks. We will be discussing ways of rephrasing when requests for repetition have been made.