The Real Key to Effective Communication

If you’ve been listening to the earlier episodes of Blind How, you know to focus on the 3 ups: Stand or sit up straight, look up at others when you or they are talking and speak up so others can hear you without needing to make any special effort. This is useful advice for anyone, but it’s particularly important for those of us who can’t see. Why? Because some of us who can’t see, if not most of us, tend not to look at people with whom we are talking, are apt to not talk loudly enough and clearly enough to be heard easily and may get a little lazy and not sit or stand up straight.

Why does it matter? We want to be taken seriously and may not be if we neglect the 3 Ups. It’s no more complicated than that.

There is a fourth element for effective communication that I’d like to tuck in as the fourth up, but I can’t figure out any way to make it an up. Even so, it’s pretty important, important enough to label it as the key to effective communication. Without it, the 3 ups still matter, but even if you look up, sit up and speak up, it is still hard to be taken seriously or to let others know that you are taking them seriously.

It goes back to that blind thing. Certainly not everyone who can see, but many who can, make assumptions about blind people that are generally not true. Ask someone who can see to finish the sentence, “Blind people….” The likelihood is that they will finish the sentence with things that they assume blind people cannot do.

The additional issue is that they likely don’t personally know anyone who is blind. They probably know of a blind ccelebrity but still think of him or her in terms of what he or she can’t do, seeing the celebrity’s musical or other special talent as separate from his or her blindness. Blindness is typically not seen as a simple fact but rather as a complex handicap.

Of course the same types of assumptions are made about people with other physical limitations such as not being able to hear or not being able to walk. This is the issue. People who can see, can hear, can walk, reflexively think of what they would not be able to do if they suddenly couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t walk. They then project their perceived inabilities onto those of us who can’t see, can’t hear or can’t walk.

It’s worth noting that many people who see fine but then can’t see later in life for some reason are apt to do the same thing; but they project their false assumptions onto themselves. They think of themselves as blind and unable to do much of anything. Since they haven’t yet learned how to manage without being able to see, it feels like not being able to do much of anything may be permanent.

I’ll get back to that in future episodes of Blind How; but here I want to share the key to effective communication, when you can’t see.

Listen and learn.

The single best way to be taken seriously in any conversation is to make it clear that you are taking other people and what they say seriously. If you first attend to taking the other person seriously, he or she will be more apt to take you and what you say seriously. The more seriously they take you and what you say, the more your not seeing moves into the background. You know you are being taken seriously when someone tells you that they forget that you can’t see.

I know. You were expecting something a little more profound. Here’s the thing. Being seen as blind can lead to people projecting a lot of their own feelings about what they couldn’t do onto you. The result is that they may tend not to take you and what you say as seriously as you deserve. They don’t get past blind.

Listen and learn is not a magic solution to the blind prejudice of some people, nor is it a guaranteed path to always being taken seriously. It is rather the best way I know to improve your odds of being taken seriously, especially when you combine that with getting better and better at getting better and better at doing things in spite of not being able to see.

I will be focusing more on getting better and better at doing things in future episodes of Blind How. If you have tips you are willing to share or questions for me or our listeners, just include them in an e-mail to Tips@BlindHow.net.

The 3 Ups of Good Communication

If you missed the last two episodes of Blind How, let me take a minute to catch you up. (By the way, you can subscribe to Blind How wherever you get your podcasts or on your podcast player. That way you won’t miss any episodes, along with getting the episodes you may have missed.)

Back to catching you up. When having a conversation, look at the other person, whether you or the other person is talking. When you are talking, speak up, clearly and loudly enough for the other person to hear without any special effort. Look up and speak up.

Sure, that’s good advice for anyone, whether or not he or she can see. But for those of us who can’t see, it’s particularly important, since we may tend not to look at people when in a conversation and may not talk loudly enough or clearly enough to be easily understood. If you can’t see but don’t have any issues with always looking up and speaking up, way to go. I’m just mentioning it since I sometimes forget and thought reminding you can’t hurt.

Now for the third element to remember when talking with other people. Who knew that a simple conversation could be so complicated? Don’t slouch. Stand up or sit up straight. Okay, if it’s a casual conversation with a friend, not slouching is less important, but still makes a difference. For all other conversations or social situations, standing or sitting up straight and keeping your shoulders back matters a lot. It lets others know that you are interested, are engaged and are someone to be taken seriously. It also lets other people know that you are taking them seriously.

There is one additional element that I’ll get to in the next episode of Blind How; but for now, focus on the 3 ups: Stand or sit up straight, look up at others when you or they are talking and speak up so others can hear you without needing to make any special effort.

Speak Up When Talking

Let me just assume that you are looking at me when I’m talking. You are looking, aren’t you? If not, you may need to review the tip titled “Look At Me When I’m Talking.” If you aren’t managing that skill, speaking up will still help, but not so much.

Although this may not be a problem for you, it is for me. If I get a little lazy and don’t pay attentionk, I tend to look down and mumble or at least talk too quietly for others to hear without needing to make a special effort to hear. I’ll bet you see where my problem starts. Sure, it’s tending to look down.

Speaking up definitely hooks up with looking at people when they are talking. It’s important to also look at people when you are talking. It’s pretty easy for me to slip into not looking up, not looking at the person to whom I’m talking.

People who can see are much more comfortable when they and those with whom they are talking can look at each other. Face-to-Face is most always the preferred mode. If they are having a Zoom call, they want the cameras on. In-person is preferable to telephone calls. But here’s the clincher. Those of us who can’t see can usually hear when people who are talking to us aren’t looking at us. For me, it feels like they aren’t interested, are distracted or just not engaged. It feels like we are not communicating.

That’s most everything you need to know about speaking up. The only additional requirement is to now speak loudly enough and clearly enough so others can hear and understand. Judge the distance, the ambient noise and then talk, about as loudly as others are talking. If they can’t hear you, they will likely let you know. Just look up, speak up and play it by ear from there.

Look At Me When I’m Talking

When I was young, my mother told me and then told me again to look at her when she was talking to me. One time I responded by saying, “I’m blind so what makes the difference?” Her response? “Yes, you are blind, but that’s never an excuse for being rood or lazy.”

I suspect that you get my point. For my mom, not being able to see was never an excuse for not doing what I was able to do. Even if I couldn’t see her, I definitely could turn my head in her direction when she was talking and at least act like I was paying attention.

I could look up and in her direction. That was at least the place to start. Success required feedback though. The problem was learning not to look too high or too low, too far left or right. I needed to focus on her voice and where it was coming from. The technique I developed is to focus a little below where I think the voice is located. It helps to shift my head and shoulders, so my shoulders are squared with the person talking.

The best way to get this right is to ask someone who you are around a lot and you are comfortable with to coach you when you are seeming not to be paying attention or are just getting lazy. Let them know that too much coaching gets irritating and not to coach when others can observe what’s happening. With practice, all of us who can’t see can get better at looking at people when they are talking to us.

As the skill improves, we can learn to look at anyone who is talking whether he or she is talking to us or to someone else. (Although I don’t know how it works for others who can’t see, I tend to look too far up and slightly to the right when someone is talking to me.)

The second part of what I think of as social engagement is speaking up. Perhaps we can think about that next time. For now, it’s enough to look at me when I’m talking to you.

Introducing BlindHow.net

Can’t See seldom equals Can’t Do

If I tell you that I am blind, what comes to mind? Now if I simply tell you that I can’t see, how does the picture in your mind’s eye change? Likely the change is significant.

The point is that telling someone that I’m blind seems to bring to mind a mixed bag of ideas and emotions about what that means in general and about me specifically. For the most part, people think about what I can’t do, causing them to feel sorry for me. Of course, not everyone is so limited in their understanding, but most are.

If instead I tell them that I can’t see, people are frequently not sure what to do or what to say. This is good news for me. They are then focused on what they should say or do next and not on ideas and notions they have about blind people that may be true, but often aren’t true for me – or for most blind people for that matter.

On BlindHow.net, I share tips about things I have done and can do. If you or someone you know can’t see, the tips may be helpful. If you can see, they may help you get a better handle when hanging out with people who can’t see. I hope the tips and discussion also help you be slower to pre-judge what people can and cannot do just because they can’t see.

I also invite you to ask any questions you may have about people who can’t see, just how they do things they do, or whatever else comes to mind. If I don’t know, I’ll try to find someone who does. Just send your questions or suggestions to Tips@BlindHow.net.

Since I don’t know everything about people who can’t see and how they are able to do what they do, please share your tips and suggestions with me and with others who visit the BlindHow.net site. This will give us the chance to learn together. Along with sharing what you know how to do without seeing, be Shure to let us know how you manage to do it. Just send your tips to Tips@BlindHow.net.

For each new tip on BlindHow.net, I post the text version, along with an audio version that can be listened to as a podcast. I have one of my many voices read each tip so you can simply subscribe to the podcast and listen to it on your phone or computer. It is also available as a podcast on your smart speaker. Just search for Blind How podcast.

If that has us in sync with the purpose of BlindHow.net and how it works, let’s get on with it. I’ll start with a few tips I have perfected over the years, and you can join with a question or tip as one comes to mind for you. Just pop an email on over to Tips@BlindHow.net and I will format it for BlindHow.net and post it as soon as I can. Also, if you disagree with any tip or want to clarify, an email to Tips@BlindHow.net is the best way to let me know.

Thanks, and enjoy. Be well, do well and please join our adventure into a world where some of us can’t see.

When Not To Do What’s Expected

Here’s The Thing

Figuring out how to deal with it would be easier if I had an outline. I could just move from point to point, only needing to fill in the details as I proceed. Knowing what I was doing wouldn’t be necessary. I would always just be following the outline. I could easily convince myself that I was my own person, acting on my own initiative, but that outline would always be there. Once I figured out how to complete the current step, I would know in advance what the next step would be, and the one after that, and the one after that. Maybe not my plan, but I could feel like it was my plan.

But what is the it in figuring out how to deal with it? Unfortunately, there is little difference whether it is life itself or the project I am working on today, whether it is how I spend my week or how to peel a banana. There is always an outline, a set of habitual steps or usual procedures. Most of the time and in most situations, I know what comes next. I need only follow the outline.

Now and then, I come across a situation, circumstance or problem where knowing what to do or how to proceed aren’t obvious. There appears not to be an outline. Nothing is telling me what’s next.

Here’s The Thing

When the situation, circumstance or problem passes – and they always eventually pass – I look back at what I did or didn’t do, how I dealt with whatever was going on. From that perspective, I assess my actions or lack of action. I now see what wasn’t apparent. I understand why I did or did not do this or that, what I could have or shouldn’t have done. I am able to retrospectively recognize the outline I followed or perhaps the outline I should have followed. The outline was there for me had I been smart enough, clever enough or insightful enough to see it and then follow it.

I’m not thinking that there is always a best way or right way to proceed. Even so, I do think that there are always better ways and worse ways, more correct and more incorrect ways to deal with things. Sometimes the outline is explicit, including specific step by step instructions; and sometimes it’s little more than guidelines or implicit suggestions. Even so, the outline is there, encouraging me to follow along.

Here’s The Thing

Since the outline is always there either prospectively or retrospectively, seeing it doesn’t seem like it should be such a hit and miss kind of thing for me. Even more confounding is thinking that I see the outline but learning later that the outline I picked was the wrong outline. I don’t get it. A good or at least sufficient outline is always there, so why do I sometimes pick the wrong outline or skip over the outline thing altogether?

I’m embarrassed to admit to how many times I have glanced at the instructions for one thing or another and tossed them aside or even worse, didn’t even bother with a glance. Granted, that usually works out but sometimes things don’t quite get the outcome I expect. More often than I want to admit, the outcome is far worse than I could have imagined. That happens with written instructions but also comes up when I don’t listen to the directions or advice of people who should and do know better than I do. I just plough ahead.

At other times, I know I don’t know what to do or how to do things but decide to proceed anyway. I tell myself things like I’ll fake it until I make it or perhaps convince myself that I can get away with making it up as I go along. Since I’m confessing, the truth is that I think I’m smart enough and clever enough to get away with just acting like I know what I’m doing. …

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