Eyes that don’t make contact, or look unusual, or a white cane make the person you are meeting uncomfortable. You don’t want to of course, but people react to the lack of eye contact. It makes them nervous. Sometimes the store clerk or the receptionist or new neighbor will talk with an over-sweet tone, like talking to a toddler. No one wants to be treated like a fool, and it’s not smart to treat the other person like a fool either. What’s the secret?
Here’s a memory trick to work with, and then some responses from a group of very experienced blind people.
A –Act the way you like to be treated
P – Peer-to -peer, be friendly and easy
R – Real response, say what you feel like, nicely!
I – Initiate the conversation, don’t hang back
L – Light and breezy tone, an April tone!
This is tough, and you’ll approach it in different ways. It’ll depend on your mood and who you are talking to. Your personality and where you are on the road of personal recovery will alter it too.
Here are some ideas from attendees at the Bay State Council of the Blind Convention who have racked up a hundred years of experience between them.
“You want to keep it light and easy. You don’t want things to get heavy.”
“I think it’s all in your tone. You keep your tone natural and easy.”
“I start by talking about them. That takes the focus off me and they get comfortable talking about themselves.”
“I say, ‘You don’t need to be concerned, I’m perfectly able to do whatever we’re doing. I’ve been at this a long time.’”
“I have no response at all. I don’t mention it. I just get on with what we are doing.”
You have to practice this stuff. It’s a performance and you’ll get good at it in time. Perhaps you can start by remembering a bad interaction and trying out breezy and easy words and tone for next time. Try not to take it out on the next person you meet! Once you have imagined several situations and got some words and your tone of voice right, then practice out loud – in the shower and to your friend or spouse. Then do it for real. Good Luck!
What do you do to get past the over-sweet tone?