Friday, May 21, 2010

Seek To Understand

The deaf world of David has taught me many things.

Since that fateful day in September 2007, when a cone of silence was dropped over my being. I quickly changed gears and adapted as best I could to being profoundly deaf.
The first survival instinct is of course lip reading, or more specifically speech reading.

One watches the lips and position of tongue of course to observe the animation of a word. But so many words are similar, so more clues are needed. Hand gesture, shoulder slumping or hunching, chin position, head tilt, right or left matters much, leg bending...they all play into the reading.

The eyes are keys to finish what, or where the other party is attempting to communicate.
I had a good teacher in my rehabilitation in the hospital. Laura, my "speech reading" coach, had patience, good skills and great teaching aids. Her constant "look at me", taught me that observation was the number one rule to understanding.
It helped me learn a new way of life that would get through many days ahead.

I still employ my speech reading skills, even though I have a cochlear implant that gives me an interpretation of sound to help me "hear" the words, speech reading is still very important to me. In many ways it more important than ever as it assists me in learning a new way of hearing.

My relatively new acquired skill of speech reading, will serve me well regardless of the situation. I find that looking into the eyes tells us so much more than words can ever say.
Without sound, I could tell so much about the emotion of the participant. If they were having a bad day or great day, it was as apparent as a neon sign flashing in their eyes.

I asked people to look at me when they talked to me. I explained that I was deaf, and needed to read them. And the only way I could understand them was if they looked at me.
A few were awkward with my request, but most accepted this and actually exaggerated their syntax and enunciation for my benefit.

It makes such human good sense in retrospect, and shows so much interest when two people look at one and other when conversing. I watch other people, and note with disdain how quickly people say something then look away or start multi-tasking by reading or writing.

Are we not interested?
Do we really understand "it" wholly?

We can learn so much from the deaf (me although deaf can learn as well) by watching ASL and speech reading. It is so "polite" if you will, and it shows so much more interest when visually involved. One cannot have multiple conversations going on.
I can only listen to one person right now with my cochlear implant. If two or more are talking, it just becomes difficult. It is as if many layers of words are vying for the number one spot, forcing themselves into a tiny opening in a small wire that sends electrical impulses, firing at neurons in my brain.
In my non-sound days, I could only have a "conversation" with one person as I had to speech read them. People found it flattering it seemed that I paid so much attention to only one person at a time.
Regardless if there were 7 or 10 people in a room, I would focus on the "speaker" to read them. This struck me as odd at first, as I like to multi-task and multi converse.
But after all this time in a cone of silence, I came to the conclusion that old way is just rude.
How wonderful to focus on one person and enjoy their words.

I have taught Dan my skills, and he emulates them masterfully, making sure he gives attention to only the primary speaker, and waiting until it is clear they are finished. Then and only then will he offer his argument or comment. He also focuses on their eyes as I taught him. "you will learn so much more and gain so much more respect if you look at your conversation partner Dan. Engage them and watch them become alive as they notice your interest".

My deafness has served his mannerism well, and I suspect he will take these tidbits of advice when he goes and grows forward in his hearing life.I am quite proud of him, and I know Mary is as well. That in itself gives me joy!

By asking people to repeat themselves a few times now, I find they oblige with a smile. I feel bad by having them do it for my cochlear edification.
But good God, you know what I found? It shows so much interest when someone says, "could you repeat that please. I did not get it all and it is important to me".
Watch the smiles as it is received as an instant accolade.

Being profoundly deaf I had to focus so hard to "get it" all of the time. As tiring as this was/is, I watched my concentration transform the speaker. The harder I looked at their lips/tongue, eyes hands and other body language, the more more the speaker lifted up, looked at me, and brightened into an emancipated look of "my God I must be saying something interesting". I find people always are.
If people distracted me or tried to interrupt while I was "speech reading another person" I had to cut them politely off.
"I'm sorry, I'm trying to speech read Joe here, but please don't loose your thought, I will focus on you as soon as Joe's finished"

This was just common sense to me trying to survive, but to others it was as if an alien from the planet Polite had landed and invaded my body. At the end of my efforts it was just David trying hard to understand.
It is important to me, to understand.

It just makes good sense, plus I heard more at times in my deaf concentration than I did in my hearing, multi-tasking, reading, writing multi conversing days.
Slowing down, watching. I mean really watching. And studying the converser, made me a better communicator.

The eyes are the window to the soul, it's believed, but for deaf guy, it told me 1/2 of the story that needed to be told. Watching the eyes, the movement, the openness, the uninhibited mannerism spoke volumes in my "speech reading" world.

I will always conduct my relationships in this manner going forth. Business, personal or just passing you on the street, I make contact first with the eyes.
It just seems right, and makes a difference in how we the message is conveyed and if it is understood.
Seek first to understand........

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek... to be understood, as to understand...”.
The prayer of St. Francis, written in the 12th century.

Happy Victoria Day Canadians!


Life As I Know It Now said...

People do like to be paid attention to. We could use more politeness, more focus, more meditation in our lives.

And Happy Victoria Day to you as well :)

Annieofbluegables said...

I agree with Liberality, and I loved your post, David. I remember clearly one woman who lived in our town years ago. I loved how Pat watched me like I was the only person on the earth. I felt so important to her. And she did that with everyone. Those people are rare. I can't even watch someone for too long. I don't know why. They say if they don't look you in the eye, they are hiding something, but I am not. So I will take your wonderful advice and practice being more attentive like you and Pat.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

When I first met my husband, I noticed right away how he looked me directly in the eye... and then I noticed his terrific blue eyes! It is indeed a good trait to look a person in the eye while speaking with him or her.

dellgirl said...

I love the post, Dave. It is very informative. I learned a lot from reading it and, it reminds me of how much I enjoy talking to people who make eye contact. You have explained that very well.

I came by, just to say hello and see how you’re doing. I hope you had a splendid week! Have a fabulous “rest-of-the-week”!

Government Funded Blogger said...

Very good post Dave.I too tho not deaf have noticed how rudeness has crept into concentrating on a conversation.

Thanks for your best wishes for our trip. I will be posting some of my impressions of the people and places on our west coast.