Limited voice and vocal disorders do not have to be a barrier to having productive, engaging conversations. When you are talking to someone with a voice disorder, there are several things you can do to help make the discussion better for everyone involved.
Here are some things you should know about how to talk to someone with a voice problem:
1. Practice active listening – Active listening means you are working to ensure you hear everything that is being said by the other person. You should wait until the other person is finished speaking before you talk. Also, to ensure you understand what is said, find ways to repeat back. Practice saying things like, “So what I hear you saying is…” or “If I understand correctly, your main concern is…” or “If I might summarize what you said, are you saying….?” These techniques will help you stay focused on what is being said and also ensure the person with the voice disorder that you hear them.
2. Exercise Patience – Patience goes a long way in communicating with anyone. When talking with someone with a vocal disorder, it can be the difference between consensus and total confusion. Understand, when communicating with someone with a vocal disorder, your lack of patience could create additional tension in the conversation. Tension and stress usually exacerbate the effects of vocal disorders.
3. Speak normally – A vocal disorder alone does not require others to alter the pace and volume of their speaking. So, unless other conditions are involved (such as hearing loss or some other factor), you should speak normally when talking to someone with a vocal disorder. Vocal disorders may limit one’s ability to speak clearly, but it does not prevent them from processing information and understanding you.
4. Talk with respect, but not sympathy – You should speak to everyone with respect, of course. When talking with someone with a vocal disorder, be sure to avoid being overly sympathetic. Vocal disorders are one of those issues that impact people’s day-to-day lives. However, it is possible to live a fulfilling life. So, your encouragement and empowerment will mean much more than sympathy.
5. Focus on the topic, not the disorder – If you are focusing on a business deal… focus on that deal. If you are tackling family issues… focus on the family. In general, people with vocal disorders do not want their voice to be the focal point of every conversation.