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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Read My Lips


One-sided conversation

Is the result...

Of the lack of...




Back in the day, once upon a time in a classroom, I taught the profoundly deaf. And the profoundly deaf students taught me. 

Give and take. 

Take and give. 

I learned my lessons early on in my training, when I was agitated, to put it mildly, with one of my students. For emphasis, I raised my voice. That's  what we hearing folks do for a little extra attention. The student, however, responded with a dismissive wave of his hand as he signed to me in ASL, 
"I'm deaf. Yelling doesn't help."

Later, in a different scenario, one of my younger students came up to my desk, leaned in, cupped her hands around my ear and yelled into it. Startled, I rubbed my sore ear and asked, "What was that?"
She looked surprised and signed to me,

"I was telling you a secret.

I was whispering."

Whispering and yelling. Conversation gone awry. 

I taught my students how to identify sarcasm, irony and humor in the patterns of written language. The puns, the idioms, the juxtaposition of words in a phrase, the connection of a caption to a photo. 
My students taught me to read a face. The subtleties of body language. The fury in a stride. The face that belied what was true, when words were not. It was hard work. All that watching. Looking for signs. 

Them.   And me. 

When my students tired of it and of me, they simply lowered their gaze.

Refused to make eye contact with me.

Rested their heads on their arms. Closed their eyes.

I disappeared. 

When I grew tired of their silliness, or lack of attention, I dropped my hands to my sides and turned my face away.

A face off. 

What we could both do, rather well, was lipread

A bit of a sneaky skill, I still use it today. In a coffee shop or across a room, to guess the gist of a conversation and eavesdrop. 

The point is this.

Conversation is a process of give and take. 

A speaker and a listener. 

Taking turns. 

To be successful, there must always be a PAUSE.

An opening. A moment. Raising your hand or an eyebrow, some cue to let each other know that both sides of the conversation matter. 

And like my students with their heads on their desks,

giving me the silent treatment,

sometimes it is best to be still.

To give it a rest.

To give yourself enough quiet, so that when the time comes and you really need to be heard, when you just have to be seen, when you are desperate to move from HERE to THERE...

You can...

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