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No Need to Be Afraid! Dr. Larry’s nephew, Mike Halloween and Hearing
My mom still has shoe boxes full of family photos. I was looking through one of those boxes recently and found an old photo of one of my nephews, Michael Jr., in his Halloween costume ready to go trick-or-treating. Mike is in college now. I showed him this oh-so-cute photo of himself and we both had a good laugh. The photo made me think about what a strange but charming custom Halloween trick-or-treating is. Every year, kids dress up and roam the neighborhood, knocking on doors and getting candy. This door- to-door tradition gives rise to all kinds of funny little interactions, and the kids learn a little about conversation and confidence as they muster up the courage to ring a stranger’s doorbell. Like so many kids, as a child growing up in East Rockaway, I would look forward to the holiday for weeks, eager to wear a colorful costume and pick up as much delicious candy as I could carry. In my newly updated book “Better Hearing With or Without Hearing Aids,” I discuss the three basic communication styles: passive, aggressive, and assertive. Thinking about my childhood experience of trick-or-treating, I realize that I learned a little about these communication styles at that time. I remember always being nervous about knocking on a door and asking for candy. Sometimes I was passive, silently holding my bag out, looking at the ground — or maybe bypassing a house completely if I did
not know who lived there. Sometimes I was more aggressive, spitting out the words “trick or treat” as if I was giving a command, before the person opening the door even got a look at me, and then running away with the candy as fast as I could. But sometimes I would take an “assertive” approach, smiling at the person opening the door and giving a pleasant, expectant “trick or treat.” In those cases, we might have a fun little conversation about my costume that would make me smile. I often meet people I think could benefit from developing some of the trust and confidence kids have when they are walking around asking for candy. Of course, I do not mean that they should go out trick-or-treating. I mean that rather than being passive and avoiding interactions, or being aggressive and trying to dominate the conversation, they would get more from life by taking an assertive approach to socializing and engaging in conversation. That might mean having the confidence to do things like let others know that it would help if they spoke a little more slowly, or that an assistive device for TV would help, etc. So many people shy away from asking for assistance to hear better or from treating their hearing loss by being fit with hearing aids, because they imagine others will think less of them. They miss out on valuable communication with others — like I missed out on delicious candy
when I bypassed the doors I was afraid to knock on. Patients often tell me they found it was a big mistake to assume that those around them would be unwilling to accommodate them or would think less of them for getting help for their hearing. If millions of little kids all over the country can run around in wacky costumes asking strangers for candy every Halloween, then it should be no surprise that most people are essentially good and kind and would like to make communication easier for you — and for themselves.
–Lawrence Cardano, Au.D.
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