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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Never Mind" You Say, "No Problem" I Say

It happened again just the other day at work. I was looking for something in my cubicle when a coworker who was waiting for me spoke aloud from across the room. I was completely out of visual range and partly around a corner. I caught perhaps one word of what she said and didn't pay much attention to it. Surely she wasn't expecting me to hear her under those circumstances. But actually she was. When I walked up to her I asked, "Were you talking to me?" She responded "Yes, but never mind".

I know those two words are the bane of some people's existence. In this blog post Jamie Berke asks, "How does a deaf or hard of hearing person cope when told never mind?".

Here's my response. I let it go. Here's why. Until two years ago I was blissfully unaware of my hearing loss. My life has been lived in the hearing world. Let me tell you that hearies talk a great deal about very little! I think that when asked to repeat something in a casual conversational setting, they realize in that moment that what they said was actually of no importance. It was just idle chatter. In other words it's not worth the effort it would take you to hear it. Possibly they've already forgotten what it was they did say.

According to Wikipedia never mind is a command which means "it is not important," "do not be concerned," or "I withdraw my previous statement". When hearing folk say never mind, it shows that the fault is on them not us. Remember Gilda Radner's Emily Litella from Saturday Night Live? She made the words her catch phrase. In her case it meant "my mistake".

How someone says the words makes the whole difference. If they're said to you in exasperation, that's a different story. Never mind is unacceptable if the information is vital to you. Of course the burden is on us to decide if it's worth pursuing the missing words or not.

Generally I would say that most conversation is not worth fretting over. Hearing people say never mind to each other all the time. Just let it go.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I always thought it is rude for hearies to say that to us deaf. if my family had engaging discussions or were laughing, i asked what it was. Their famous statement: Never mind. That is how deafies feel about that words. Hearies does not understand but it can be big deal to us.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Dear anonymous,
I agree that it's hurtful to be left out of an engaging discussion and laughter among your family. If they won't repeat in that situation, then it is unkind. I was referring to a one-on-one conversation. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

I get that all the times. I've said that same statement to a couple of hearing friends when they wanted to know what my deaf friends and I were talking about. Once they got to taste their medicine, they knew how I felt. I know it's kinda cruel, but at least they got slapped in the face and never did that to me again from there on.

When I hear "never mind," it depends on the quality of the conversation that I sometimes let it go or tell them that I demand to know what's going on.
- Jen

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Jen,
Thanks for commenting. That's a great way to handle the situation. When friends leave you out of group conversation, turn the tables and let them see what it's like!
I try to use humor to deal with life's difficulties. An example is the picture at the beginning of this blog post. If someone says "never mind" in a demeaning way, then in my mind they look like a baboon. tee hee

SpeakUp Librarian said...

I received this helpful comment in my email recently and wanted to share it:

Loved it. Especially your point of view.
When I have something important to say to my husband,I make sure I have his attention. I can't put responsibility on him for hearing something if I haven't gotten his attention.
Actually important information gets
put in front of him in writing - not just to make sure he gets it, but, hopefully, remembers it.
Then the writing goes under a magnet on the fridge. With age comes memory loss. My husband and I both need all the help we can get in that department.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Liz, a new deaf blogger, recently blogged on the same topic. Here's the link to her post.

Anonymous said...

Hi again. Even though we talked about the same topic, after reading your blog it makes me think about should it happen again, I said in my post I'd probablly say something next time, but after reading your post, it brings this subject in a completely different light, which if I was to experience this again, I'll carry on with what I'm doing so far, and not bother if they can't repeat what they just said. After all its not that important is it. I'm going to put link to your blog on my blog page too, so others can see your site.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks for the link, Liz. It's good to hear different points of view.