May 7, 2017
Breaking down the unrest...
The feeling never gets old. The feeling of showing up, meeting a new group of people who never had any kind of exposure to deaf and hard-of-hearing people. The feeling of apprehension I get from everyone, including myself. The uncertainty. I’m sure you can relate. Someone coming in and acting completely foreign, and you want to poke him or her with a stick and see what happens. Here are a few things that I found to be effective in breaking down that kind of unrest.
Just go up and talk to that person.
It’s blatantly simple. It really is. Just walk up to that person and start talking to him or her. Now you’ve made contact. Oftentimes I notice people say, “Oh, that wasn’t too bad,” after making their first-ever interaction. It’s not like you’re going to talk perfect German. The person you’re talking to does also have English skills. It’s expressed with hands instead of mouth. Chances are that your first interaction will have some rough patches, but he/she will recognize that initiative and invest more in trying to communicate with you.
Show that you’re doing your homework.
I’m not talking about how you should show your deaf teammate your civil engineering homework. Show that you’re actually trying to learn different things. It can be looking up certain signs on YouTube, reading an article on Deaf culture or picking up the alphabet. I wrote “doing,” because it’s still ongoing. Don’t try and learn a couple things then stop. It’s a craft that you’ll continue to learn and that alone will improve the team dynamics drastically.
Spend your time with them and their friends.
Oftentimes deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes have their own crowds outside of sports. I did have a group of deaf friends that I would hang out with after practices or games. For many of the hearing athletes, their contact with the deaf community is oftentimes through their deaf teammates. The more people you meet, the more exposure to different kinds of deaf and hard-of-hearing people, you’ll be able to grow faster and learn more about your deaf teammate. I totally get it, you’ll feel quite uncomfortable but like everything else, the more you do it…you’ll get used to it.
Don’t think too much. Just approach your teammate and show interest, and then the championship team chemistry will start to develop.