Communicating with deaf people does not have to be difficult; they also want to know what you want to say! Here are some tips for a more positive impression:
1. When communicating with a deaf person, face him/her and maintain eye contact. Avoid covering your mouth or turning your face away because many deaf people rely on lip reading, most especially if you do not know sign language.
For hearing persons, shouting to call a person’s attention is effective, but obviously that is not the case for people who cannot hear. Thus, make sure that you are entirely visible to the deaf person.
2. Check if the level of noise and lighting can allow interaction. Ensure that your face is not covered by a shadow and ensure that no direct light is reflected into the eyes.
Always remember that the deaf person can read your lips. You can also stand close enough for easier reading (but not too close so as to invade space) and try to check if they have their contacts or glasses on.
3. Keeping your distance does help, most especially if you are talking to a hearing aid user. Maintain a distance of one meter or so away from the person you are talking to.
4. With a conversation underway, let the other party take the lead. Speak clearly. Do not mumble or yell.
Things are more complicated if we are dealing with someone who cannot do lip reading. In that case, allow the other person to choose how to communicate. They will surely do well since they are accustomed to interacting with hearing people.
5. Take turns talking so that everyone will feel included in a conversation.
6. Repeat what you are saying if necessary. Rephrasing might also do the trick.
If the deaf person keeps missing your point, assure them that it is okay (e.g. don’t worry, it’s okay). It will make them feel accepted and important. Avoid saying “It doesn’t matter” and then give up when they miss what you are saying. Show your deaf friend that your conversation with them matters!
7. In case the above tip is not working, try writing it down.
A few more things before we end:
Always be patient. The process is quite a struggle for both parties, but we can always make room for good manners. Giving up out of frustration is disrespectful and you will end up making people feel left out.
That ends our list of tips on how to effectively communicate with the deaf, although for sure you also know a few tips yourself. If you are going to interact with deaf people quite often, why don’t you try learning sign language? It may even be a life saver (hopefully not literally) for someone to know sign language, especially with common phrases such as “Hello,” “Yes”, and “No”.