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Sunday, January 25, 2015

First Night of Class Discoveries

On the first night of my new class, Communication Training, my professor had us take a Myers-Briggs personality test. I was very interested in this activity because I had taken one about 25 years ago and remembered my result was ESFJ. I was able to remember that distinctly because it was around the time I was in library school and the typical librarian is an ISFJ. I was curious if my personality type had changed over the years. My results showed I was now an ISFJ. At first, I attributed that to nearly two decades of working in libraries. But then the thought occurred to me that perhaps it was partly because of my hearing loss. The old extraverted me has had to develop more of the rich inner world of an introvert as it's become increasingly difficult to communicate in social situations. Frankly, it can be more relaxing to stay home and read a book or watch a captioned television show alone than go out with other people and struggle to understand what they are saying.

Another part of our class session involved introducing ourselves and sharing what we hoped to gain from the class. When it was my turn, I stated that I am hard of hearing and am interested in developing a training class for friends and family members of people who experience a hearing loss later in life. The objective of the class would be to learn techniques and strategies to help them improve their communication with their loved one. My teacher was surprised. She asked bluntly, "How would I know that you're hard of hearing?" Her question was brilliant and gave me an opening to explain the concept of invisible disability.

This was easier for me to do because another student speaking before me had shared her situation of being legally blind with a continuing decline in her vision. To look at her one would never guess that. I was pleased when that student immediately invited me to join a campus group that tackles the stigma of disability. My professor checked in with me later when we had moved to another room to be sure I was hearing her. She noted that it must take active listening on my part to keep up which I readily agreed to, admitting it can be tiring.

I did not tell her that earlier in the class session, I had made a false assumption I attribute completely to my hearing loss and not catching all the words that had been said. Seated in my row were two Muslim women wearing hijabs with long-sleeved dresses. Only their faces and hands were visible. I recognized one of them from a previous class and she had greeted me warmly when I came in the classroom. When the teacher was talking to them, I caught her saying the word mother and noticed that she gestured towards the woman seated nearer to me. The teacher responded that they looked more like sisters. So I figured out that one was a mother and the other was her daughter. Then I thought that the woman I knew was the daughter and the other one was her mother because I had heard her say the word mother. But I was not sure I was right. I stole a few more glances at their faces and hands and saw one had a wedding ring and the other did not. I realized that the one sitting closer to me was actually the younger looking one and so must be the daughter. When we had a break, I asked her if she was the daughter and she said yes. I was grateful I had the extra time I needed to process that and figure out their identities correctly. If I had spoken too soon, it would have been very embarrassing for me.

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