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HLAA Workshop: The Dozen Most Effective Communication Strategies for the Workplace

By Marla Dougherty 7/1/11

This session was packed with so much information it was hard to take notes fast enough.  Although I have been practicing some of the strategies for years, I came away with half a dozen new techniques to try. 

Scott Bally, Ph.D. and Bonnie O’Leary, certified hearing loss support specialist and Director of Community Outreach Programs at NVRC led the program. To begin, Scott pointed out it is not only important to maximize our hearing with good hearing aids, but we also need to maximize our visual input.  If you use eye glasses, be sure to wear them because they will help with speech reading and visual clues. 

Scott went on to say that communication situations can be complex so we need to be open to trying new approaches. Hearing loss can be compounded by other factors and we need to learn what to change but not get frustrated over things we cannot change.   

The workplace was the focus of the program, and Scott and Bonnie put together straightforward strategies and solutions that can work in any job scenario. The techniques are sensible and easy to put into practice.   

As the person with a hearing loss, we need to decide whose problem it is when communication breaks down. We may experience feelings such as frustration, anger, self-pity and withdrawal, and our co-workers may experience the same reactions. By sharing our feelings and trying to take the other person’s perspective, we can develop solutions together.

Bonnie gave excellent examples of key phrases to use to open the communication door. She suggested letting people know what makes you feel excluded or left out and what they can do to help. Also let them know you appreciate it when they speak slowly and face you while speaking.

Scott shared these strategies for success in meetings:

Plan ahead by asking in advance for the meeting agenda, which provides the opportunity to review what will be discussed. It is easier to follow along if you know the topic. 

Decide what your communication needs will be in each situation. Will you need to arrive early to sit in the space with the best visual advantage?

What language will be used in the meeting? Who will be doing the talking? Are you familiar with the speakers’ communication habits? Will you be receiving instructions or information?  Try to anticipate what will happen so you can be mentally prepared.

Ask excellent questions
Consider a closed set question such as “Where are we meeting today? In John’s office?”  It will be easier to understand a short answer. Try to be very specific with questions. Think about using questions that will get a yes or no answer.   

Change your environment or change environments
Take inventory of your work environment. How is the office or desk placement? Can you create a better listening environment?  If you can’t change your environment, think about changing environments. Suggest to your co-worker that you move into a quieter space such as a hallway, unused office or empty conference room for a conversation.

Develop repair strategies
Avoid saying “huh?” when you don’t understand the speaker. If they have to repeat EVERYTHING it makes them do all the work.  Instead, try phrasing the question, “I know the shipment goes out next week but who is checking the final list?” This lets them know you were paying attention and only missed a little.