The Other Side of the Blind

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Last week’s post focused on the common misuse of the word blind to give negative punch to statements meaning ignorant or unaware. I got some push-back from my family as you will discover if you have a minute to check out the comments from last week. This post is focusing on the other side of the blind…

Here’s a picture of both sides of a window blind. On the outside, part of a house in the snow can be seen. On the inside there is a glowing rosy interior. Both scenes are inviting, but the blind acts as a barrier in both directions. That is the meaning of blind. It is a barrier to perception.

The barrier to perception that window blinds create operates also with the barrier between sight and blindness. If you are a person with regular sight and have never met someone before who doesn’t respond to your eye contact or your smile, blindness can seem just like a closed window blind. Your attempt at friendliness has been rejected. Maybe you think blind people aren’t friendly, aren’t approachable. Maybe you turn away…Meantime the person with vision loss may not know the way to jump the barrier either. But we can learn how to do it.

A massive majority of Americans see pretty well. Vision loss doesn’t become common until you are about eighty years old. So we have to get good at jumping over the barrier – snapping up the window blind.

In the early years of your vision loss – which could be a good number of years – you may not be ready to reach out to people who see well. You have grieving to do. Denial, anger, and depression must all be allowed their time. But one day you are ready.

A great sociologist, Erving Goffman, pointed out that it is easier to present yourself as worth knowing at the beginning of an encounter than to alter the perception later on.*

 

So you need to practice presenting yourself as a friendly, assertive person at the beginning – when you meet someone.

 

This is what job specialists call “soft skills.” These include looking groomed and attractive: introducing yourself at once in a friendly confident tone of voice; saying something short and simple about your loss of vision, eye problems or blindness; and then turning the conversation back to the other person’s life, or the event you are attending.

This isn’t easy…It helps a lot to talk over what you might say with someone else with experience of vision loss, and then practice! So the next time you step out to meet someone you can show your glowing, rosy, interior self!

If you are joining a new community, returning to a job after vision loss, or applying for a job, you need to jump the barrier differently. There will be a blog post about this soon.

What are your tips for meeting someone new?Let us all know what you’ve discovered.

*In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Anchor Books, 1959, page 11,now available from Google Books , and from Learning Ally

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