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Left out at work, advice please!
I feel I need to get this off my chest and ask others for opinions..
I'm deaf, I can hear quite well with my aids, and my speach is almost perfect- the downside is that most people often forget or don't realise that I don't hear well due to having a great speech as well it is a hidden disability. There are limitations when you have a hearing loss.
I work in a happy friendly medium sized company full time, I have been there for 2 years, I have no problems communicating with my work colleagues at work based on 1-1 conversations.
However, the issue is that I have noticed that people had been socialising a lot outside of work- they're all split into different groups, i.e young Australians, mothers, Asians etc. I feel left out when I'm not invited to any appropriate events. I think to myself why do they not ask me? It's hurtful. I often see them having a good time on Facebook and I feel I should be part of it. I don't expect to be invited to all of them but a few of them would be lovely. Now, I often dread going into work and feel a little anxious as sometimes I feel that they think I'm boring due to hearing limitations and they may dislike me even though they put a friendly face at work.
Its so hard for me to hear in group conversations and to act totally myself. It's hard for me to make friends. Maybe, that's why I'm left out? Put yourself into my shoes. Imagine yourself working in a foreign country only understanding basic language and just managing to get by,how would you feel in a group setting when they're speaking fast and fluent? Anyway, if I notice people laughing about something I can't say 'Hey, what is everyone is talking about?' Because past experiences responses were 'Don't worry,' which upset me and this let me down. I also don't want to annoy them by repeating 'Hey, whats happening?' So, I sit there in silence not understanding what is going on. I just wanted to feel included!
However, 3 work colleagues had said 'lets catch up one day' but never took place, its always me that makes the effort, why say it if you don't mean it?
I'm reluctant to talk with anyone at work because I'm not close to anyone, I feel embarrassed, stupid and people may think I am over-reacting! I don't know how to approach the situation.
People describes me as having a good heart, friendly, considerate and always like to get along with people.My sister said I shouldn't worry as I have lots of friends outside of work.
Advice please (Feel silly writing this)
Hey starlight. It's so difficult having hearing problems, trying to communicate, being part of the 'gang' etc. Knowing your colleagues are aware of your problems, doesn't really help as they still are at a loss to know how to act/speak around you. Have you considered learning lip reading? I work in a job where we frequently deal with hearing impaired clients. Several of them recently formed a social group where they started concentrating on lip reading. Try asking your work colleagues, the ones who invited you to get together, to see if they would be willing to help you lip read. There's no need to be embarrassed about being deaf. I'm quite deaf and I often lip read. As we age, our hearing becomes difficult too, my parents were both deaf (it was industrial deafness). Just approach them casually and tell them you'd like to study lip reading, would they be interested in helping? Often with hearing aids, while they do assist, to a degree, the down side is, they tend to magnify the sound, plus they also tend to pick up background noise. So while you may be able to hear better one on one. If there are other noises, these too will be louder. Some aids are volume controlled, so the background noise abates slightly, however the noise does still filter through.
Thank you for your post and I appreciate you writing in even though you said it made you feel silly.
I think Lynda (pipsy) has given some great advice already.
The couple of things that I have as suggestions are;-
- Chat with your manager/supervisor or HR. Depending on your place of work they may have some ideas. This might be something as simple as an organised social event. This can be a great way to help get to know colleagues without the 'business-talk', which could lead to out of work socialising. Plus it's good from a HR perspective because happy social people are more productive (win-win).
- You said that your colleagues think you are boring. How do you know? It's amazing the assumptions that we can jump to without actually knowing what the facts are. Maybe they have assumed that you're not interested, or maybe they never thought to ask you out of routine. My guess is that it will have absolutely nothing to do with your hearing.
- Consider signage or reminders. I've worked and known a few people who are deaf/wear hearing aids and they may wear little badges or have reminders in their email/office. This can be a great way to remind people to be considerate.
- Talk to your 3 colleagues. They've said that they'd like to catch up so you know they're interested. Maybe contact them and see where it goes.
I think you are completely justified in feeling the way that you do... I would think in this day and age people would know to be a little more considerate!! At a previous workplace of mine I had the pleasure of meeting 2 people who were hearing impaired and am still friends with them to this day. At first I wasn't sure how much they could hear, but they explained they could lip-read so as long as I was facing them when speaking, I didn't need to speak louder or anything. We worked in hospitality so often it would be very loud and with so much background noise their hearing aides didn't help much, but they found that often if customers were talking to them and they couldn't figure out what the person was saying, they would point out their hearing aide so people would notice and try to speak clearly/avoid mumbling etc. and if all else failed, they could grab me or one of our other friends to 'hear' for them.
This experience has helped me understand how to help out without making someone who is hearing impaired feel like they are being belittled (like when you ask what people are talking about and they say "don't worry"... very insensitive!!).
Is there any one person you work with that you feel closer to than the others? Perhaps explaining things to him/her would help, as they can then explain to the rest of the team and then everyone will understand how their behaviour is affecting you.
If you are friends with some of your workmates on facebook, maybe start a group chat and add all of your workmates during a weekend or when you aren't at work and try to connect over something that happened at work, or joke about something you will all have in common- like 'I can't believe we all have to work right up until Christmas'... you know, something light hearted but can still generate a lot of responses. If you can get a bit of 'banter' going in the group chat, when you are all back at work the next time people are chatting, they will notice that you aren't a part of it and naturally want to include you. They might then realise that whenever they are having a chat, they could start by getting your attention first so that you know what they are talking about from the beginning.
Using a written medium at first will help so that you are not disadvantaged at all by your impairment and can have a chat with these people that you can have a 'full picture' of instead of only being able to catch bits of what they are saying.
Hope this helps xo