Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thursday Noon: healthy lunch and ponder edition



Talked with defBef lately about the implications of this quote, from Joanna Russ' book "What Are We Fighting For?" In this quote Russ talks about the difference in body language between various groups of people:
When White women's tilted heads mean (to the women) something like "I am listening to you seriously, taking the whole conversation seriously, and my answer will be thoughtful and serious" while to White men the same posture means something like I am deferring to you/I am insecure/I am not an authority, there will be trouble. When White Northwest Pacific people keep in touch by what are (I assume) to them companionable silences, while Eastern European Jewish Americans (like me), who keep in touch verbally, interpret silences as social catastrophes that must be filled by talk (or a plea of shy people to please, please not let anyone hear how socially inadequate they are), the latter will desperately keep on talking, never having received the signals to stop that they recognize, i.e., repeated interruptions, and the former, never having received the signals to begin talking, which is silence of a certain duration (I still can't tell how long the silence is supposed to last and I lived there for years), will dazedly wonder how to shut the intruder up.

So you see how hearing people from all places around the globe each have their own "body language" patterns which are kind of prerequisites to communication.

Deaf people have these patterns too. With Deaf people you cannot get too close - we like to be able to see each other signing, which means the face and chest area, and we like to make sure we have room to communicate. I have seen people in hospitals try to speak to Deaf people by getting as close as possible to them and SHOUTING. By doing this they violate the Deaf person's sense of space, make them more irritable, and exacerbate what may already be a difficult situation for the Deaf person.

I've also noticed Deaf people use/avoid using eye contact to communicate whether they are in the mood to talk. A Deaf man with his head down or eyes averted is saying "I do not want to talk, leave me alone." A hearing person might not be using those cues, but might see the Deaf person's eye aversion as rude.

What rules do you see which are cultural and govern Deaf people's communication? I don't have a list, this is just some thoughts.

*update:* Just saw Oscar Ocuto's blog on DeafDC: does anyone think this particular issue has anything to do with Oscar's experience on the red line? Did the mis-matched body language and eye contact issue between Oscar and this guy affect how they were feeling?

1 comment:

Oscar said...

Thanks for pointing me to your blog--good stuff you've got here. However, I don't know if my Metro experience was something to further delve into. I was just sharing my 2-cents about an experience.

It could have been that the fella had just had a bummer of a day and wanted to grab the first seat he saw, nevermind whether or not there were empty seats all over. It could have been he didn't notice me--like one of the commenters mentioned back @ my blog--maybe going blind (which would explain the lack of eye contact)...this may be the most plausible explanation mustered thus far.
As far as body language goes, personally, I think that it's a cultural thing, like you say--however for me, due to my Hispanic-Italian heritage, culture is definitely a BIG part of me. My family members always touch each other, hug, stand close to one another so I've never really had issues with personal space. However, I find it fascinating that deaf people value that more so than some others--practically because of the signing space--we hug when we familiarly greet one another, rather than the usual handshake--to an observer this may seem that we prefer a closer, more intimate atmosphere...YET we back away from one another (although its for communication purposes)--sort of ironic, isn't it? I wonder what the rest of you might glean from this?? Any personal space experiences out there?