I started working full-time in an office for the first time recently, and am struggling to join my hearing colleagues’ conversation.
I can see them chatting by the water-cooler or in the canteen every day and it bothers me that they talk far too fast among themselves for me to keep up. It’s very difficult as I know these chats will form the basis of many people’s working relationships and could even help them get promotions. What shall I do?
I think probably every deaf and hard of hearing person can relate to the water-cooler dilemma. I always say to people, “It depends on your kind of personality as to which strategy would work best for you, and how you can carry it off.” Some people would wait until a friend was at the water cooler – or the kitchen kettle, or wherever staff gather – with other staff and then go and join them with a smile on their face and ask what’s happening (if you know your friend will repeat things to you).
Some would have a word with someone they trust and agree that they’ll meet up when others are there, and slowly staff will get used to seeing them and including them in their conversations. Others would prefer to wait until a staff meeting or a Deaf Awareness training session (you have booked one, haven’t you?) and bring it up then in a friendly and cheerful way. With all of these, lower your expectations and be happy with a summary: “We’re just talking about….” rather than expecting a word-for-word repeated conversation. That way lies madness.