When having a conversation with another person, there are certain cues, clues and non-verbal communication methods that I watch out for to allow me to understand what’s going on better.
Even though there are many non-verbal communication methods that a deaf or hard of hearing person tends to use, I’d like to use this opportunity to tell you what I (subtly) look out for throughout a conversation with another person.
You can watch the video below…
…listen to the podcast…
…or read the transcript.
During a conversation, when I am talking to just about anyone, I tend to pick up certain cues and clues and non-verbal communication (methods) allows me to understand better and to be able to follow the conversation a lot easier, especially when it’s a noisy environment and the environment doesn’t suit me.
But even if the environment is perfectly fine, I still depend on certain cues to help me follow along with the conversation. This applies to many, many people. And by the way, I do have a separate video that discusses the non-verbal communication that deaf people tend to rely on when it comes to understanding what other people are saying.
But in this situation right now, I’m going to be talking about what I tend to pick up and how it helps me and maybe give you an idea of what is in my head when I’m communicating with yourself.
Before we get into that, make sure you check my Patreon page. If you want to support the channel, it means a lot to me if you can give us support and allow me to continue creating this kind of content to help raise deaf awareness, to talk about it a bit more, to help as many people as I can and just to make the world more deaf aware.
It’s about the context
Just before we get into the little cues that I tend to look at, the most important thing when I get into a conversation to understand the context, the topic of what’s going on.
It applies to anyone. Imagine when you’re going into a conversation right in the middle of what people are talking about, a lot of people will ask, “what are you talking about” just to get up to speed. What’s going on?”
I need that so much. I need to begin to understand what’s going on. And sometimes it’s helpful. For example, before a meeting, before certain video calls, to have an idea of what we want to talk about just to get mentally prepared and just to be ready for what the topic is about.
And then I’d be able to follow along a lot easier rather than trying to get scrambling and just trying to catch up with what’s going on. But the context is so important, and that’s even before we get into the cues.
Having good peripheral vision helps
The other thing that I think works to my advantage is that my peripheral vision is not too bad because it allows me to pick up certain things.
So for example, when it comes to lipreading, I don’t necessarily stare at that person’s lips. I still make eye contact, but then you can still see the shape and how that lips moving and you’re able to follow along.
Likewise, when you’re talking to someone and you’re making eye contact, you can see what’s going on around you or the body language person without even looking at it.
So for me, the advantage of being a deaf person, you’ve got a very good peripheral vision when it comes to these situations.
1. The various body language cues
So let’s get started obviously with body language, it’s most obvious one and it could mean many, many things.
But I’m going to just tweak it a little bit. And what I’m talking about is how your body is behaving and reacting during the conversation. This involves something like:
- how you put your hands on your hip
- when you have your arms folded
- when you are fidgeting with your hair or your clothes
- when you are pointing
- you have your hands up
- when you’re touching your chin with your index finger and your thumb
- when you’re playing with your rings or other jewellery:
all of these things will tell me different things.
For example, it’s quite obvious that when you have your arms folded, it’s quite a defensive language. And without even saying anything that when someone’s talking to you and you have you arms folded, it is quite defensive and it’s not very warm when you feel like that.
Likewise, when someone has their traditional “thinking face”, some time you put your hand on the chin and they rub their chin, maybe just stroke their beards or their moustache; all of these things will give me an idea of what that person is feeling and how they think and allow me to work out where the conversation is going.
2. Hand gestures
Hand gestures are another thing that I look out for. I just look out for those subtle things that people do to understand what the person is saying. Some things are very easy to make out what they say.
If it’s like ‘big’, you move your hand far apart. You get your thumbs up and you got your ‘OK’ signs.
But then you got those exaggerated moving, like if you want to keep on moving things forward, you roll your hand forward.
And if you want to be like stand off-ish and you talk about a time where you had to step back, you put your hands up as well.
Those little things can make a big difference. And I’m not saying you have to be like a mime or you have to be fluent in sign language and be able to sign everything. No.
There are certain things that just makes it a little bit easier. And these are the things that you don’t necessarily have to force, you don’t really put it on.
It just comes naturally, like I’m doing right now with my hand. You just do it naturally and that’s it. It’s a very natural thing for us to do, just use your hand gestures when you are having a conversation.
Just be aware that you don’t hit anybody in the face or knock a drink of a table with your hands.
3. The subtle (and not so subtle) touches
Touch is a big one as well, and I’m talking about when people touch you in terms of on your shoulder or you touch your back or even things like a high-five, the hand contact.
Even how you shake your hand, these little things will also give you ideas of what that person is feeling toward you.
So for example, obviously, if someone is pat on your back or has their hand on the shoulder, on your shoulder, and then it just makes you a bit more comfortable. That person is warm toward you and feels friendly and it just having a nice conversation so these little touches can make a difference.
But obviously there are negative touches as well. So, for example, if someone just push your shoulder but in a more aggressive way rather than just a playful pushing shoulder, then that will tell you different things.
4. Eye movements & contacts
Eye movements and eye contact are also very important. So it’s quite obvious when someone is having a conversation with you and the eye is not really focusing on you, you don’t have the eye contact, then that person is either bored or not focused, seem distracted or just rude because they don’t really care.
Who knows? There could be many, many things, depending on other cues and other examples of what that person is doing with their body language. But it can make a difference if you have eye contact. That person is focusing on you hopefully and concentrating on what you’re saying.
And again, that makes you feel like, “OK, I can continue going, I’m going in the right direction” and I can play around with that.
So these are a few body language that I tend to look out for quite subtly. I don’t really deliberately look for it, but it just comes naturally to me.
5. Facial expressions & cues
Facial expression is something that everyone is familiar with because it’s very universal. Anyone can tell what you are thinking, judging by what your expression on your face.
And I’m not talking about being happy or sad or angry. There are other things that can also be shown with your facial expressions, like if you are in disbelief or if you are disgusted or maybe you are rolling your eyes and that adds to the whole expression on your face.
You can all add different things to the conversation and how you feel to that person. And that allows me to again work out whether that person is happy, what you are say is angry, that person has empathy towards you or is rejecting what you’re saying, it allows you to gauge where you’re going with it.
And that’s why it’s helpful for me. I just tend to look out for little cues like how the mouth are moving, like a smirk or how their eyes are looking. Is it like just focusing with their eyes wide open and focusing on you or just like blinking and just rolling their eyes and just not even looking at you and just not caring.
These little things, they all make a difference, the movement of the eyes, your mouth and the shape of your mouth, they’re all have an impact on a way for me to understand what’s going on.
6. Lipreading (mouth shapes and movements)
And speaking of the movement of your mouth. Obviously, a big part of it for me is lipreading.
And lipreading is a big thing. I’ve done a separate video about it. You can check it out as well to learn more about what is lipreading.
But what lipreading is not is it’s not a way for me to understand everything that’s going on.
So if we have the sound switched off, or you are an incredibly noisy environment and I can see what that person is saying rather than hear what that person is saying, it doesn’t mean that you pick up everything. It’s part of a jigsaw.
It’s part of everything combined with everything that mentioned: the body language, facial expression, as well as lip reading, they all play a part together to help me understand what’s going on in the conversation.
7. Tone & pitch of voices
And then finally, the tone and the speed of the communication. Is it high-pitched, is it low-pitched? Is it really, really fast or slow and deliberate and carefully said?
They can all make a difference. You can imagine if you’re speaking in a very slow way with just pausing in between sentences, it’s a very serious conversation.
But when you’re excited, you’re just really, really happy to talk and your pitch goes up and you get going crazy and it’s like, “wow, it’s amazing!” and it can be a bit tiring, but you get the idea of what that person is saying and how that person is feeling and that allows you to work out what’s going on in a conversation.
Nothing wrong with that. It’s a natural thing that we all go through. Your voice changes during certain situations and they will also align with other things.
If you are angry and you can tell you’re angry, then that will also be able to be heard in your voice because you will be maybe just have that gruff noise or you get so “urrghh!” frustrated and that will play the part in a communication, just like for anyone.
But there are little things around that that I just connect it all together. And sometimes if I don’t pick up every single word, I connect all the cues together, I might be able to work out what’s going on.
But like I said, there are many, many jigsaws put together alongside understanding the context and just using my peripheral vision to work out what is said.
Like I said, there’s a separate video about what deaf people do in terms of depending on non-verbal communication and how they use it and what they get out of it.
But also it’s important to make sure that you are aware that when you communicate with deaf people, there are other things that need to work in our favour and to make it easier to have a conversation.
So for example, for lipreading to work, well, then it will need to be in a well-lit room, because if you’re in a dark room, that’s not going to work. And obviously, it means that not be able to gauge what’s going on with the body language, that’s a common sense.
And then the other thing like if it’s a really noisy environment, then you’re not going to be able to hear anything. But even if it’s noisy and you can pick up other things and you can’t hear, it doesn’t mean that we’re able to follow along. It’s still useful to have a quiet environment and well-lit.
And there are so many other factors. Again, separate video, but you can check it out yourself, and hopefully that will help you to learn more about how to communicate with deaf people, hard of hearing people and just to make it as smooth as possible for everyone, for yourself and for the other person.
And everybody will win.
I hope that makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions and let me know what other cues do you tend to pick up yourself? It doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or hearing, do you have any other things that you tend to pick up in your own way? Because I’ve got even more things that I pick up that allows me to understand what that person is saying and how that person’s feeling.
Like I said, body language is just something that I tend to pick out quite well in my experience. But what about you? Let me know. I’m really, really curious to know how it looks for yourself as well.
Let me know in the comment below. It really would be awesome. And while you’re there, make sure you subscribe on this platform and just to make sure that more people are aware of this communication method and making it easier for anyone to communicate with deaf people.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- What is ‘audism’? Plus my personal experiences of facing audism - October 27, 2021
- ‘CODA’ movie review: my thoughts on the latest deaf movie to be released - October 13, 2021
- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021
Leave a Reply