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Good, Better, Best

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. Better Hearing and Speech Month. Better than what? And, better how?

Many of us are blessed with “normal” speech, language, and/or hearing abilities. We chat with or text loved ones on our cells. We hear the baby wheezing or breathing peacefully in the crib. We understand a good joke and show our amusement with loud, guttural guffaws or with a raspy snort. We engage in life fully, calling on our “native” communication skills to serve us across our experiences.

So how can we “ramp up” our communication skills; how can we “better” them?  Consider the following challenges:

–       Understand how cultural differences might impact communication.

–       Take a “vocal nap” every day, especially during periods of extended use. For instance, teachers could limit speaking during the breaks between classes and find quiet ways to spend their lunch break rather than talking in a noisy staff room with colleagues.

–       Improve your vocabulary. Sign-up to be e-mailed the “Word of the Day” at any or all of the online dictionaries.

–       Protect your hearing. The iPod/TV/car stereo system is too loud if you have to raise your voice to be heard.

–       To enhance your own listening skills, tell your conversation partner, “I’m listening to you because I really want to understand what you’re saying.” Follow-up with questions on anything that still isn’t clear to you.

–       Be attentive to the needs of users of assistive communication or mobility devices (hearing aids, communication boards, wheelchairs, etc). Ask what you can do to communicate effectively with them (e.g. “Stand to my preferred right side,” “Don’t make me look into the sun/overhead lights; please sit,” “Confirm that you understand what I’m saying.”).

Remember: Good communication skills – while completely acceptable — can always be better!

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