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Saturday, February 13, 2010

More About the Nod - Guest Blogger 06

"The Deaf Nod" is still attracting a great deal of attention.
Most readers agree that it has nothing to do with deafness.
It's a form of bluffing that all people do in weak moments. We
don't understand but, for whatever reason, we are afraid to admit
it.

It doesn't matter if it's someone who is deaf who isn't
understanding spoken word. Or someone who is hearing who is
having trouble understanding sign language. Or someone who
speaks a foreign language who is struggling to understand
English. The nod happens again and again.

This is the first "Guest Blogger" entry that was written by a
person who is hearing and sighted. Tiara is a frequent SSP in
the deaf-blind community in her area. She has a new job working
with people who are deaf, although she is not yet completely
fluent in ASL. She also knows Spanish and sometimes works with
people who are learning English as a second language. Tiara
has a unique perspective to add on this topic.

I was reading your article about the "Deaf Nod" and found myself
itching to respond even before I'd finished reading. I'm so
frequently guilty of that, even in conversation. Shame on me!

I wanted to tell you it isn't a "deaf" nod at all, but an "I
don't get it but I want you to like and accept me" nod.

As a hearing person working in the deaf world, I hate to admit
it, but I catch myself doing the Hearing Nod. The nod that says,
"I'm paying attention and I want to agree with you, but I have no
idea at all what you're saying."

I do some volunteer work teaching English to Spanish-speaking
individuals in my area. Interestingly, the other volunteer
teachers call it the "Beginner's Nod," because just about all of
our students do that until they get conversationally fluent
enough to easily explain which parts they don't understand--and
until they get confident enough to ask their questions.

Is it human nature? I'd say yes. Is it helpful? Only in that
it's more convenient/expedient sometimes than asking the
questions we should be asking. Sad, isn't it, that we'd rather
appear to understand than to actually admit ignorance and perhaps
gain some enlightenment?

1 comment:

  1. I respect Tiara's point, and at the same time, I think it's important not to just shame the person who nods when they don't understand. When I do the nod of feigned understanding, it's usually because I've asked for repetition, rephrasing, or retyping (I'm deaf-blind), and the person on the other side of the conversation is unwilling to do that and is instead starting to become frustrated and scold me for not understanding. I nod because I don't feel like being scolded, put on the defensive, or blamed and shamed for not understanding their ineffective communication. So to say "shame on me" for nodding is to imply that the responsibility for a mutually comprehensible conversation falls solely on me, when I may in fact be trying to exit this interaction in order to find a more effective alternative to a conversation that's not going well. It's not that I don't care about learning something or becoming enlightened, as Tiara says; it's that my attempts to do that are not meeting with a respectful response, and a confrontation isn't always the best solution. The shame for nodding is thrown on me, but it really belongs to the person who's not accepting their responsibility for taking me up on the communication techniques I've offered or using them effectively. If communication isn't a two-way street, then it's not communication at all.

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