What would you do
If I sang outta tune
Would you stand up
And walk out on me?

– The Beatles (Joe Cocker’s version….)


I’m reaching out in this post, simply because I don’t really know what to do in a certain situation and I know there are people reading this that might be able to help me out…

What’s the best way to start a conversation with a deaf individual?

I honestly have no idea where to start; you can make eye contact, wave, smile, and sit next to them…but then?

Since I don’t know very much ASL, I already know I’m at a severe disadvantage.  Even when I do take a basic sign course, there is no way I’d become fluent enough to sustain any developed conversation, however, I do hope to learn some of the customs of deaf culture.

A few months ago, I got chewed out for clumsily finger spelling a word that a deaf person wasn’t able to understand as I was talking with her.  She told me that I didn’t know ASL and that I should learn because it’s insulting to her that I don’t know her language or culture.  This is kind of discouraging and a little bit frustrating for me.  Mind you, this happened in my first month at RIT, so I was still getting used to the culture of the school (which includes the mass concentration of deaf students).

So what’s your opinion?  How can I be more respectful of the deaf culture and also communicate without the help of an interpreter?

Not only will this be helpful for interactions with deaf individuals, but also interactions with others who speak languages other than English.  Your help is greatly appreciated! =)


The bees and the flowers

Over breakfast today, I had a nice “birds and the bees” conversation with 7 others.

The topic came up after one of my friends brought up a story about how she accidentally broke with code.  Apparently she was engaged in an educational tangent with a third grader on pollination….and somehow ended up comparing pollination with the foreign concept of “something that mommies and daddies do.”

Then the conversation takes a turn towards a more literal understanding of “the birds and the bees,” but that’s not the point of the story.  We often find ourselves repeating phrases that have no logical meaning through the combination of words but instead have a secondary meaning buried under years of use.

These phrases are known as idioms.

What’s an idiom?  Take a look…..

Some of these idioms go far back in history and are found having slightly similar meanings in other cultures/languages.  Maybe next time you hear somebody mention an idiom, you’ll break it down literally and wonder where the heck did that phrase come from?

While you chew on that, I’m going to go hit the sack….

Back deck!

All my friends
Like to spend
Days on end
On the mend
I turn to you, I turn into
And then I turn it again

-Red Hot Chili Peppers


Learning to roll (upright while flipped upside down) a kayak has been one of the most fun experiences I’ve had while at college.  The class is composed of 8 people and all of us have become really close to one another over the 2 hour long, Friday classes.  Plus our fearless leader, Paul, always has an interesting story about his younger kayaking classes in the past, his massive Saint Bernard, or anything else that comes up in our conversations while practicing in the pool.

It took me about 8 classes to fully develop a reliable sweep roll….and it’s all the result of good communication between my classmates and the instructor.  Technique is heavily stressed in the beginning; various rolling fundamentals are introduced and practiced first to develop good form.  The instructor would observe our movements, comment on what we were doing, and offer advice as to how we could improve as we practiced our rolling exercises.  Once we began using our paddles to roll, our instructor would be in the water almost all class long to help guide our paddles in the right path that would cause us to roll our kayak upright.

This is where my progress slowed down a little bit because my movements weren’t reliably consistent….I had the roll but it hurt my shoulder a lot after class….I had the roll the next class…I didn’t have the roll the next class….I had the roll….I didn’t have the roll.  This got the perfectionist inside of me teeming with frustration.  Through my determination to figure out the exact motion, I developed ways to better explain the roll to others.  Now I’ve finally got that reliable sweep roll and back deck roll thanks to Paul and the rest of my awesome kayaking class =)

As for my kayaking adventures, it’s only just begun.  I definitely plan on furthering my whitewater kayaking skills in the warmer months coming up; I just need to find some gear and some kayaking pals!

Smile. =)

There’s this idea in social psychology called reciprocity;  it involves responding to a positive or negative action with a similar action.  For example, if someone gives you a birthday card, you might give them a hug, but if someone steps on your toe, you would make an angry face at them (a video explaining a related study here).

Remember back to a time when you were given a genuine smile….there’s that initial wave of happiness , seretonin quickly flows through your brain, your eyes brighten, and you can’t help but smile back.  After this encounter, you’re more apt to have a lightened mood and will smile at any people around.  As you smile towards these people, they experience that same happiness reaction that had earlier taken control of your smile.  Congratulations, you’ve just started off a contagious wave of smiling people who are going to spread those smiles and good moods wherever they go next.

This butterfly effect result (small wings developing into a strong wind) originating from a positive action as basic as a smile may be exaggerated a little, but consider the power of that smile.  And smiles are free….everybody has one, they’re easy to make, and accepted just about everywhere.  Similarly, other small bits of positive communication: a random act of kindness, a hug, a compliment, a friendly hello to a stranger, can invoke that positive attitude in pretty much everybody.

These positive actions are incredibly easy to perform; yet easy to forget without making them a part of our daily lifestyles.  The beginning of this video shows a great depiction of our blah emotions….here’s the link.  Notice how both the man and woman are each stuck in their own negative cycles and can’t seem to see anything positive around.  But the man sees an opportunity to lighten up the mood of a stranger (the woman) after seeing the raincloud drawn above the lady on the bench.  While this is a somewhat specific and idealized example, it shows how easy it can be to influence someone’s attitude with just the simple idea of a positive action.

I encourage you to try and fit in at least one positive action each day….maybe smile at a stranger, perform a random act of kindness, compliment a neighbor, go start a conversation with someone who’s sitting alone, wake up and smile at yourself, take the dog for a walk, or smile at the person who brings you your coffee in the morning.  (The list doesn’t end here, feel free to come up with your own!)

Scared?  Do it, it’s worth it. =)

Great Lakes Football Rules

We’ve finally reached the public speaking section of our human communications course, a section that apparently a few people in the class weren’t looking forward to.  In class, the professor encouraged us to write our main public speaking fear/reason why we’re confident on a piece of paper, crumple it up, and toss it across the room.  Then everyone would pick up one of these anonymous statements, read it to themselves, and volunteers were asked to read their notes to the class.

Then we proceeded to cover audience analysis, a very important step in selecting a speech topic.  Public speaking 101: know your audience and present something that’s relevant to them.  Blah, blah, blah…

So how does this apply to you?

Audience analysis is analogous to the marketing strategy of developing and focusing your advertising efforts on a target audience.  Think of all of those Superbowl commercials….those who see the Superbowl as 5 straight hours of quality American football entertainment and those who aren’t interested in watching the game both come together to watch the advertisements between plays.

When my family used to spend Superbowl Sunday at my aunt and uncles place, my mom, aunt, their friends, and my female cousins (stereotypical) would slowly make their way out of the crowded living room during gameplay but actually rush back to avoid missing any commercials.

Later, among the talk about certain game changing plays and the usual complaints about the referees consistently calling unfair penalties, you’ll hear chatter about the comical advertising.  Superbowl commercials do an excellent job at analyzing their audience, they incorporate groups having a good time, family, humor, pets, sex appeal, and regularly pick fun at gender roles.  Incorporating elements that all age groups, both male and female, will be able to connect with and enjoy….while advertising their product.

Show me who you are,
I’ll show you what you love.


Back to Back

Jump in, let’s go
Lay back, enjoy the show
Everybody gets high, everybody gets low,
These are the days when anything goes

-Sheryl Crow


I deactivated my Facebook (…what a weirdo!) on December 12th, 2010.

Haven’t been on for almost two months.  So I’m pretty sure I’ve severed any dependency that might have existed, I surely don’t miss feeling like a stalker whenever I log on, but I do miss that additional connection with friends.

In total, three people have asked where my Facebook has gone.

I’m not sure if this speaks about the quality of my friendships and other interpersonal relationships.  It’s a little concerning knowing that when/if you ever drop off FB, you no longer exist.  Communication with 300+ “friends” ceases, and you’re now in the same category as a nameless hitchhiker on their way to Utah.  One hundred people will no longer send an annual birthday greeting because that reminder won’t pop up on their page.  Fifty people won’t comment on your new profile picture or new relationship…

This new definition of “friends” bothers me.  An interpersonal relationship is based on a bit more than a couple face to face interactions and an appropriately timed online friend request.  I understand the desire to hold on to every person you’ve met on a social level, which is fine.  Knowing everything going on in their life in a matter of minutes is what scares me.  What do you talk about the next time you happen to meet up with them?  “….you never mentioned you worked at Pac Sun, have 3 olders brothers, and go to Florida every Fourth of July……what?  How do I know this?  I know this because I analyzed your entire Facebook page.”

Am I making you think yet?  I sure hope so.

Relationships come and go.  Strengthen and weaken.  Built up by doing things together and broken though deterioration.  People hate rejection….rejection anxiety is anticipating that horrible feeling (almost pain) when you get dumped or rejected by a group and making efforts to avoid it.  Nobody wants to be rejected, but it allows us to grow and change.  And the obsessive hoarding of friends on Facebook tends to simplify those waning relationships…because 2 lost from 500 “friends” is easier to handle than 1 lost from 5.

In a nutshell….

….life is all about communication.  Think about how much we experience during a typical day, one way signs, facial expressions, advertisements, texting, newspapers, phone calls, Tim Horton’s drive thru boxes, facebook posts, ASL conversations, emails, lectures, etc.  The list is  incredibly long for just one day; but the most important type you’ll experience among those is interpersonal.

Interpersonal communication occurs between between two  or more people who have interacted for a long period of time, have noticeable patterns within their interactions, and are dependent on one another in some manner.  Aka friends, parent and child, dating couples, co-workers….

This is important because humans are a social species, so just as food, water, and shelter are needed for survival, strong social connections are also necessary.  Without these, there are associated high stress factors involved that have been proven to exist through various studies.  These stresses on the body result in physical risks equivalent to poor diets, lack of exercise, or years of smoking.  And there are also various mental health issues attached as well, including depression and anxiety.

From this perspective, it’s obvious why we’re all so addicted to the social media.  Facebook, Twitter, and the older MySpace all satisfy this social communication requirement to a certain extent, but a question to ask ourselves is why do we need this interpersonal crutch?  What is missing from our normal interactions that had been satisfied in the past?