Communication Matters

Casey Ring, Learning Center Manager

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12 Tips for Communicating with a Deaf Person

Casey Ring, Learning Center Manager | Posted on November 11, 2018
  1. Use a normal speaking pattern. Over-enunciating makes it hard for a Deaf person to read your lips.
  2. Write it down if necessary. Some people are better at reading lips than others
  3. Look directly at the person you are communicating with. If you look away, a Deaf person may miss what you are saying.
  4. Speak in a normal tone of voice. Since a Deaf person cannot hear you, raising your voice doesn’t help.
  5. Try to find your own way to communicate. Although you can’t talk to one another, there are many other ways for you to communicate. You can use a pen and paper or even text to have a conversation.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask a Deaf person to repeat themselves. The goal is clear communication and understanding. Asking to repeat something has better results and less frustration – for both parties.
  7. Be patient and inclusive. Imagine you are trying to understand a conversation that you want to be involved in, but are unable due to the conversation’s speed, number of people talking at the same time, and/or not being able to share your ideas with the group. By allowing enough time and considering the communication needs of everyone in the group, you ensure that everyone can participate fully.
  8. In a group conversation, take turns speaking. A Deaf person can only look at one individual at a time.
  9. Be clear and concise. Saying “I’m fine” can have many different meanings with subtle differences. For example “I’m fine” can mean
    • I feel well
    • I feel the same way I always feel
    • I’m way too busy to know how I feel
    • Don’t bother me
    • Did you want to know about my emotional or physical well-being?
    • You don’t care how I feel or would have stopped walking to listen
  10. Use body language and gestures. Deaf and hard of hearing people who use sign language are accustomed to using their hands and face to communicate. Gesturing and using clear facial expressions when speaking to a person with hearing challenges can help them understand what you’re saying. “Miming” is also acceptable if it helps to get a certain point across, but remember that mime is not the same as sign language.
  11. Accept that awkward moments happen. Even if you follow all of the above tips while speaking to a Deaf or hard of hearing person, they’ll probably still misunderstand you at some point. Don’t feel bad or stop. Just repeat yourself and continue the conversation. If they’re having trouble understanding a certain word or phrase, try using a different word, rephrasing what you said, or typing it on your phone.
  12. Resist the urge to give up when misunderstandings happen. A little effort on your part can make a big difference to someone, and chances are that you’ll benefit from the experience, too.

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Tags: Language, Communication, Deaf, Hard of Hearing, American Sign Language, ASL

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