Thanksgiving is tomorrow – a holiday built around the love of friends and family.
In fact, Thanksgiving marks the official start of a season that emphasizes our relationships and connections to others. Yet, despite the positive nature of the holiday, it can also lead to anxiety or frustration if the very basis of the holiday, communication, begins to breakdown.
Whether you are the host/hostess or the guest, there are many ways to improve the overall holiday experience and ensure that the experience is a positive one for everyone at the table. Here are some strategies you can use to make sure communication is flowing with little resistance at the holiday table:
Get your hearing checked. If you have difficulties hearing or a known hearing loss, try to have your hearing checked before the holidays. This way you can take any necessary precautions and take care of any possible issues (e.g. earwax) beforehand.
Prepare. If you already have hearing aids, plan to wear them at your holiday dinner. Part of your preparation in doing so is by visiting your audiologist an making certain that they are programmed and working properly.
Ask about Assistive Devices. Ask your audiologist about assistive devices that you can use (e.g. remote microphones) that will help to increase a person’s speech over background noise. This has the potential of giving you an added boost in conjunction with the hearing aids.
Reduce Background Noise. If you can, try to limit your exposure to background noise during your holiday dinner. If you are hosting, play soft music only and wait until after dinner to turn on the TV and/or use the dishwasher. If you are a guest, find the sound source (e.g. stereo speakers) and sit at the opposite side of the table from the source to reduce its impact.
Find a Preferential Seat. Sit closer to those individuals who are more difficult to hear. This way, you are closer and won’t have to struggle as hard. Those individuals who do not present as many difficulties for you conversationally will not warrant as much of a struggle even if they are seated farther away at the table.
Pay attention to lighting. Keep the area well lit. Proper lighting will enable everyone to use compensatory strategies (e.g. facial expressions, speech reading) that will facilitate communication.
Give your full attention. Try to carry on one conversation at a time. Engaging in multiple conversations at once can lead to confusion and difficulties with speech processing.
Use your eyes. Face the individual with whom you are speaking. This will maximize your ability to use the clues that you see in an effort to help you hear.
Slow down. When we are excited, we tend to speak fast! Try to modulate your rate of speech so that others can follow the conversation with greater ease.
Be clear. Involved in a conversation? Take the temperature! Clarify that the person has heard/understood you before moving forward with the conversation. The converse is true too! If you have difficulties hearing, take the pulse of the speaker to ensure that you are following the conversation correctly.
Play musical chairs! Hosting the party? If possible, try to encourage people to rotate seats during dinner or facilitate a conversational topic. This helps to include everyone and minimize difficult communicative circumstances.
Laugh it off! Bring your sense of humor to the party and just have fun! Being surrounded by loving, understanding family and friends will make it easier to be successful in these circumstances. Enjoy your moments together, and shrug off any difficulties with a laugh and a positive outlook. The most important thing is being surrounded by our loved ones who, when all is said and done, understand this plight and want the situation to be successful.