11 December 2011

It Goes Both Ways

It Goes Both Ways: Lessons in Communication
© Rhianon Elan Gutierrez
December 11, 2011

I've noticed that there are active and passive communicators.

Active communicators are engaged when they communicate (whether through aural, visual, gestural, or written means) and when they listen and observe. They listen and look at all possible emotional, physical, and environmental cues. They make it known that they want you to understand them and that they want to understand you. Passive communicators often are disinterested in reciprocity or are terrified of judgment. These feelings strain communication, but they are amendable. The fear of being judged exists in so many deaf and hard of hearing people that I've met - notably about their speech, intellect, and listening and signing abilities.

There's a motto that I've come to live by: "If I am going to listen to you, I need you to face me and speak clearly in order for me to give you my fullest attention. It is only fair for the both of us."

Who wants to communicate with a wall? Be an active communicator. Communication goes both ways. You cannot blame another person for their "ignorance" if you do not make your needs known. I consider eye contact and body language to be important in my interactions but I recognize that everyone has a "comfort zone". Some people cannot look at me in the eye for emotional or psychological reasons, so I make an effort to move my head where I can best see their faces. I tell them this. I do the same thing when I communicate with wheelchair users. As a listener and observer, you should make an effort to make your conversations the best they can be in the circumstances you're given. Use all possible means to make your conversation meaningful. You can do it.

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