‘struth mate, how on God’s earth can people who are profoundly deaf, people who are hearing impaired, and people with severe speech impairment practice active listening skills in non-verbal conversation? You have got to be joking!
No! I am fair dinkum cobber. Nodding in response to what the other person is signing, or saying things like “uh huh,” “mm,” “really,” means the person the conversant is signing to, the listener, fulfills an important role in informing the other person that he or she is being understood. Clarifying with the original signer to ensure the message has been correctly understood takes the non-verbal language skills as above, that little bit further and is reflecting to the signer that they are understood.
This ‘active listening’ behavior displays the process of responding to the overall conversation. It is listening with your eyes, the symbolic interaction of communication through signs and interpretation, according to deaf language and cultural norms.
Maintaining eye contact is a strong cultural behavior of politeness and acknowledgment of what the other person is saying. Looking away or responding in a passive way by not reassuring the signer they are being heard will terminate the conversation and be considered socially unacceptable or very rude.
Active listening as explained above is sometimes called listening with the third ear, a holistic sense of perceptiveness. Becoming involved with a group of people signing is to experience living in a truly interactive environment. Signing is rich in symbolic meaning, feeling and expression. Indeed, a ‘living’ language.
There are useful links in the above article. I hope you find the articles on sign language, specifically Auslan, interesting. The Australian Deaf community do not consider themselves disabled but rather, acknowledge their minority Deaf language and culture with pride and celebrate annually in Australia during Deaf Week. The Deaf community are very much a part of multicultural Australia's social fabric. In addition to these links, check out the links on Cairns and Australia below.
Sue Bayliss. Cairns, Australia.