I have a dear friend, Amber, who is deaf. She does not read lips and only communicates through sign language or an app called Cardzilla. Cardzilla is a text card app for your cell phone. Whenever we get together, I'm able to use a little of my ASL and a lot of my thumbs on Cardzilla.
Unfortunately we don't see each other often but when we do, we spend hours catching up on work, family, business, social life, and parenting. Our meetings are always fun and filled with laughter as well as winking. Fortunately, I have strong thumbs.
Over the past few outings, I've learned a few lessons on communicating effectively with her. I thought I'd share them with you.
1) When you are using your thumbs, you do not have the luxury of small talk. Be meaningful and respectful in your communication.
2) When someone else is typing, don't type over them. Read respectfully and let them finish. And it's okay to make the yes sign so as to prevent them from thumbing a Magna Carta-esque text message.
3) Silence is not a bad thing. You can use other forms of communication beyond words.
4) When communicating with others who are not hearing impaired in the presence of someone who is, do your best to include those who are deaf in the conversation using a medium they can understand.
As a person who has spent the past two and a half decades building communication systems that help people relate to one another, I can't help but notice the parallels of my lessons learned in communicating with my friend and teaching my clients how to communicate with their constituents.
I've noticed over the past few months that I keep trying to incorporate those lessons learned as I work with my clients. I'm grateful for my friendship with Amber. We should all have a friend who teaches us respectful communication.