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Tips for Overcoming Communication Barriers this Holiday Season

We have been challenged repeatedly this year, and one of those challengers (COVID19) will not be going away anytime soon. As we have all experienced, coronavirus continues to have a strong effect on our interactions with loved ones and abilities to socialize in a “normal” way. This holiday season will be unique. Many of us will maintain social distancing at a time where we would normally be busy with multiple gatherings, travel, and shopping for gifts. While the show must go on, we must continue in a way that greatly effects the way we communicate in any environment or situation.

Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your interactions during this busy season. As we have all experienced by now, face masks create difficulty understanding speech. There is a lack of visual cues and the material obstructs the clarity of the speech signal, resulting in muffled speech. There are a few ways in which we can be thoughtful while communicating with a mask:

1) Speak slower than your normal rate. This will allow the listener’s brain to fill in the missing pieces that may be unclear.

2) Annunciate your speech. This may come unnatural to some, but it can make a huge difference in understanding what is being said.

3) Do not be afraid to slightly raise your voice. The mask interferes with the vibration of sound, reducing the power of the speech signal and ultimately decreasing the volume.

4) Try to reduce background noise.

Outside of masks, traditional gatherings will likely look different this year as well. Luckily, technology has allowed us to stay connected with video conference calls. However, these calls can prove to be challenging as well. If you are participating in a video call, remember these tips:

1) Mute your microphone when you are not talking to reduce background noise in your environment if others are speaking.

2) Make sure your face is easily within view so other can use your visual cues. Good lighting will help with this!

3) Speak slower than “normal” and allow time for the other to respond due to delays in connection speeds.

Finally, regardless of the communication challenge, smile. Your eyes say more than you may realize, and a smile can be seen through the eyes and is felt with the heart. Stay connected with your loved ones, and let’s overcome Covid19 this holiday season together!

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