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.