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Be an assertive communicator

By Rex Banks, MA, CCC-A, Reg. CASLPO
Chief Audiologist, Canadian Hearing Society

Having a hearing loss doesn’t mean you need to take a backseat in life. See where you fall on our list of communicator types and with the right adjustments, you’ll be on the road to a lifetime of good communication.

Passive communicator
Passive communicators often start out in denial about their hearing loss before comfortably sliding right into the background – not wanting to call attention to their problem or ask for help. “Passives” will avoid situations and conversations where they may need or actually want to participate.

Aggressive communicator
“Aggressives” have no problem letting you know that they have a hearing loss or that you may need to modify some aspects of your communication. Aggressive communicators tend to dominate conversations – the more they talk, the less they have to try to listen. Aggressives often place blame on others during communication rather than accepting their own role and responsibility to ensure that they understand. They may even go as far as ignoring their communication partners when they don’t understand.

Assertive communicator
Unlike passives, “assertives” ask for communication help when necessary, but don’t demand it like aggressives. Assertive communicators stand up for themselves to ensure that their needs are met. They do this through a blend of mastering effective communication strategies and advocating for themselves.

The basics to being assertive

  • Let others know that you have a hearing loss upfront.
  • Don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask for what you need.
  • Keep background noise low.
  • If you are unsure you understood, summarize what you think was said so the speaker can confirm or explain again.
  • Face the person you're speaking with.
  • Try to keep a sense of humour.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself and give yourself a break in a quiet area to regroup.
  • If you're too tired or distracted for a conversation, ask to postpone.

The environment

  • Do your best to have a conversation in a place with good lighting, so you are able to see the speaker's face, gestures and body language.
  • If you're going to a restaurant with friends or family, try to arrange a time that is not during peak dining hours. Try to sit somewhere away from noisy spots such as the server’s station or kitchen.
  • When you're with a group of people, try to position yourself in the middle of the room or group so you have visual access to most people's faces.
  • If you're joining a conversation with a group, ask for the conversation topic so you have contextual cues.

Repair strategies (tips for your communication partners)

  • Get your attention before starting a conversation
  • Face you when speaking
  • Repeat more slowly
  • Rephrase what he or she has said
  • Give you the key word or subject of conversation
  • Spell a word
  • Write something down, especially important dates, times or appointments
  • Use gestures
  • Simplify or shorten the sentence

Ask for help

  • Use "I" statements (e.g., “I need you to please repeat that last number”)
  • Explain why you need an adjustment
  • Be specific
  • Be polite

For more tips, check out the latest edition of Vibes. 

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