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13 Things You May Not Know About Blind People

13 Things You May Not Know About Blind People

On a stormy evening when the lights went out and my eyes could not adjust to the darkness for a while, I learnt about what it might mean to live with a partially distorted vision. Following sounds and relying on touching objects, I had a unique experience. Afterwards, I was intrigued to know more about how do people with visual impairment live their lives and what do their surroundings mean to them.

This post is a result of that pursuit for understanding. Here are thirteen things that you may not know about blind people. And these thirteen things will go a long way in helping you deal with your awkwardness of interacting with people who have visual impairment.

1. They may possess some form of perception, if not their full sight.

Visual impairment does not equate with complete loss of vision. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15.88% of people who are visually impaired, face total darkness or are blind. The remaining 84.12% have partial or residual vision, like color perception, light perception, movement or even form perception. They may be able to see in blurs or varying degrees of distortion, with literal blind spots in some areas. As you can see, there are many ways of having low vision, and it is not a binary between sight and darkness.

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2. They are not ashamed of having visual impairment.

Many blind people report perceiving their visual impairment as a mere physical challenge. By no means do they see it as debilitating or the end of their joy. And they don’t believe that ‘being’ blind is their identity. This group of people is as powerful, magnificent and capable as anybody else. And the onus on making a much needed attitudinal shift lies with the rest of us. So, the next time you find yourself thinking “Oh poor thing, s/he is blind”, check yourself and explore how you can change some deep rooted assumptions that play out when interacting with people who have different abilities.

3. They do not always need acute supervision.

Blind people are far more aware of their environment and have more mastery than they are given credit for. They may need inputs just like anyone else, to familiarize themselves in a new place or learn a new technology. But, visually impaired people by no means are perpetually dependent on others for their living. I would urge you to approach all visually impaired people with this in mind – If they need assistance, trust that they will ask for it on their own.

4. They feel as insulted by overcompensating kindness, as by judgment.

Some visually impaired people I know, often wish that everyone else would just treat them as people, and not as people with a condition. Unsolicited and extra assistance is something that may make them feel small. For example, helping them cross the road and taking them to their destination, when they just ask for directions. Or buying groceries for them and counting money on their behalf. Even picking up something they dropped and taking over carrying their stuff, are all considered as overcompensating kindness, which many blind people report as derogatory. Ask if they need help. Accept it if they say no.

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5. They are not super-sensory, and may not have heightened senses.

Popular culture depicts that if one of the senses of a person stops working, the others become sharper. This is not necessarily true! Though blind people may rely more on their other senses, and develop a strong memory or are tuned into auditory cues, they may not always have a sixth sense. However, there is evidence that suggests blind people use a process called ‘echolocation’, whereby sound waves are used to determine the location and size of objects within a particular area. Dr. Gavin Buckingham says, “They will either snap their fingers or click their tongue to bounce sound waves off objects, a skill often associated with bats, which use echolocation when flying.

6. They enjoy being spoken to with normal language.

You don’t have to hold yourself back from using vision oriented language with them, like look, see, watch, witness or even viewpoint! They do not take offense at such words, and might actually feel awkward if they sense you making a conscious effort to avoid such terms. Instead, just let them be a part of your experience, as they make you a part of theirs. After all, blindness is not a stigma.

7. They are as responsive and engaging with their environment, as any other human.

Yes. People with blindness like exploring new places, go to the movies, music concerts, try out new restaurants and even indulge in adventure sports like racing, snowboarding, trekking, skydiving etc. They as excited or hindered by their surroundings, as anybody else. This predisposition primarily depends on the personality types of individuals. Some are introverted and prefer their alone time or controlled environments. Others are extraverted and proactively seek varied experience.

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8. They do dream while sleeping.

Their dreams show up just the way they experience daily life- with a rich mix of sensory cues. In a Danish study (2014) of 50 blind adults, 18% of the blind participants (both congenital and later-onset) reported tasting in at least one dream, compared with 7% of sighted participants. Nearly 30% of the blind reported smelling in at least one dream. Almost 70% reported a touch sensation and 86% hearing. However, the emotions and themes of their dreams are known to be similar to that of people with sight.

9. They understand colors in unique ways.

Some individuals who develop blindness later in life, relate to colors just like people with sight. For others who haven’t experienced color as intricately, relate to it through association and building concepts like the fire is yellow or the sky is blue. They also associate it with energy forms: blue=cold, white=frozen, red=hot. Sometimes s/he can only tell bright colors or they might have a hard time telling blue or black or brown apart, or pink from white. Whatever is the case, colors have meaning for all people and the blind understand the concept.

10. They have more nightmares than sighted people.

This is a result of mental impressions or interpretations of distressing situations, because blind people generally report more anxiety in daily life than others. They find it challenging to avoid stressors, and hence their nightmares are closely tied to reality- falling into a ditch, getting run over by a car, running into a tree or getting stalked. Dr. Amani Meaidi who has studied this phenomenon closely, says such nightmares don’t affect the quality of life of blind people, but are a true indicator of the experiences they have.

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11. Not all of them use a cane.

Since there are varying degrees of visual impairment and blindness, some individuals seek assistance in the form of white canes or red tips canes which denote degree of impairment. Many others prefer using guide dogs, who are trained to help them navigate through curbs, doors or crosswalks. They keep an eye on their owner’s right shoulder to protect against collisions.

12. They are open to curious inquiries about their situation.

You may not know how to be with people who are blind, or might want to understand them better. Thus, it is perfectly fine for you to ask them about their lives and how their experiences are. The key here is to be curious, have a willingness to learn and appreciate the uniqueness that comes with being visually impaired. As said earlier, many blind people don’t see their situation as limiting, and can offer great insights, if you just ask.

13. Their success also hinges on how you view them.

Psychologists say that success in life, education and jobs of visually impaired individuals are directly proportional to the expectations that people around have of them, and the degree of positive attitudes they encounter. The more capable and able you believe they are, the more they will shine. Self-esteem, self-belief and self-image are partially formed through social interactions, and it is important that people encounter empowering experiences. Be that experience!

As you allow this understanding to settle, just remember that blindness is not a defect or a stigma. It is a characteristic, just as sight is, and Helen Keller’s words capture this fact beautifully: “I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a manmade world.”

Featured photo credit: blind woman walking in a park via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

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Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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