Have you been working remotely for the last few months? Maybe your social life has moved online and you’re chatting with family and friends using your computer or smartphone. Virtual communication can be a challenge for people with hearing loss as well as people with normal hearing. That’s why we want to share some of the best tips for virtual communication, straight from people with hearing loss.
We’ll start with the most important piece of advice. Communication is all about teamwork. Every conversation happens between at least two people who need to work together to hear each other and have a great conversation. If you have hearing loss, our first tip is to make sure your communication partner knows you have hearing loss. Whether you’ve had a virtual conversation with a coworker, a friend, or a family member, make sure they’re aware of your hearing loss.
If you have normal hearing, it’s also important to remember that communication is teamwork, and make sure you’re doing your part to help everyone hear.
In virtual meetings we often have a tendency to rush. When people aren’t in the same room, it can be hard to read body language, or realize people are struggling to keep up. Slow it down, and make sure people have time to take notes, or ask for clarification if they haven’t understood something. You can watch the faces of others in the meeting. Pay attention when people look down to take notes. If someone looks confused, stop and ask if anyone has questions.
Take Turns Speaking
When everyone has great ideas, it’s tempting to all talk at once. Even during in-person meetings this can be confusing, but during virtual communication, talking at the same time will actually cut off the audio! If you want to have a smooth meeting, remind everyone to take turns speaking. You can ask people to share their idea in just a few sentences so everyone has a chance to speak. You can even request that people raise their hands to show they have something they’d like to add. When everyone takes turns speaking everyone will hear better.
Make Sure Your Hands Are Visible
We all use our hands when we talk. We may use them to emphasize a point, or express how we’re feeling. During virtual communication, the camera will often only show our head and neck. One way to improve communication and use body language more effectively is to make sure your hands are visible as well. This works best in small meetings between two or three people. You can adjust your camera and seat so that you can see your head, torso, and hands.
Incorporate Non-Verbal Communication
Are you trying to gauge if the group agrees or disagrees? One way to make virtual communication easier for everyone is to incorporate more non-verbal communication. At the start of a meeting, you can encourage participants to nod or shake their head. You can also use some basic hand signals. For example, a thumbs up can mean “yes” and a double thumbs up can mean “that’s a great idea”. Using more nonverbal communication can make conversations easier for people with hearing loss and keep everyone on the same page.
Use the Chat Feature
Most virtual meeting rooms have a chat feature. You can use this chat to make sure you haven’t missed anything important. This is especially helpful for people with hearing loss. Ask people to use the chat feature to clarify confusing points, spell acronyms, and prevent repetition. The chat feature can also be used to ask follow-up questions without interrupting the speaker.
How Virtual Communication Keeps Us Connected
People with hearing loss have learned how to communicate online, and we have a lot to learn from them. Whether you have hearing loss or normal hearing, these tips will make it easier for you to enjoy virtual conversations and meetings. Communicating with family, friends, and coworkers online keeps us connected. Technology makes it easy to keep in touch with loved ones, or collaborate on projects at work.