Eyes, they say, are windows to a person’s soul. Poets, novelists and storytellers describe them as the communicator of truth. “They speak their own language,” goes a suggestion.
But if a person loses his eyesight or is born without it, does it mean he or she cannot communicate non-verbally? Or does it make them incapable of observing the body language of people around them?
Yes, blindness does prevent us from having eye contacts or observe the “language” eyes speak.
But if you really believe that god opens many doors by merely shutting two windows, you won’t be wrong most of the times.
Having lost my sight aged 18, it was hard for me to adjust to the fact that I could no longer have eye contact with people.
Since I could see before, I would instantly respond to someone calling my name by turning my head in the direction of that person. And then, I’d have the sinking feeling that I could no longer observe the beauty of the face or the expression in it.
As time went by, I realised it wouldn’t do any good getting disappointed over not seeing faces. If I couldn’t see anything else and not complaining about it, then why should I complain about not having eye contact with someone?
Agreed…having eye contact with close ones like mothers, wife/girlfriends, boss, colleagues and even your own kid would be excellent, but this challenge of not seeing is all about finding a different way of doing that, even if it needs a lot of practice.
Of course, people may question its accuracy, especially given that blind persons are as easily excitable as others. But if accidents ranging from spilling coffee over the computer keyboard to (ironically) falling over the probing white cane of a blind man walking on crowded sidewalks are any evidence, even perfect vision doesn’t guarantee accurate results when it comes to communicating with the external world.
I began to realize that people’s voices could be a wonderful communication channel just like their eyes.
I started to pay close attention to voices and any non-verbal gestures I could observe. For instance, people would look away and you would observe their voice going at a different tangent (usually to your right or left), which meant they are either evasive about something or not too keen to continue the conversation. In a professional situation, that would mean they are upset with you for something or they lost interest in you.
If the person’s voice is slightly high pitched than usual, they are trying to control their excitement or they are happy about something. Any trace of dullness would indicate that they are working hard to sound cheerful (probably not wanting to upset you) or wouldn’t like to bear their heart out in public. It could even mean they’re not up to conversation and would rather be alone.
Like location identification in cell phones, we always have to triangulate information coming from different perspectives to get the right picture. In different contexts, it would mean different things, but with some effort, blind people generally figure out the mood and the situation their companions are in by observing their body movement and voice.
That would be the tough part. Once we get the picture, most of us can moderate our own voice and body movement to match our companions not only to indicate (wordlessly) that we understand their situation and would like to act appropriately, but also to offer solace or join in their happiness. Imagine how a sighted person would react when asked by their blind companion: “So…tell me the good news…”
This has worked wonders for many of us in personal and professional spheres. At workplace, it’s vital that we get a quick grasp of the situation in order not to appear sluggish.
More often, questions over inability to have eye contact with other people or doubts on their non-verbal communication influences recruiters in choosing a blind person.
But if that is the only reason for hesitation, I hope you’d change your mind after reading this post.
**Association for People with Rare Eye Diseases (APRED) is planning a volunteers’ meet sometime during second or third week of August in Bangalore. As mentioned in previous postings, all the organization needs from volunteers is system time of about three or four hours a week. But before that, APRED team would like to meet those ready to be volunteers so that it would be a nice way to break ice and get introduced.