eaf people can be really blunt some times.  They will go up to friends of theirs and say things like; “You got your hair cut.  I liked it better the other way.”  or, “Oh my gosh, you put on so much weight since the last time I saw you!”  If your hearing friend said something like that, you’d want to punch them in the face.  Some people find it hard to believe that this is considered polite behavior in the Deaf world, but it is.

Why would potentially making people feel bad about themselves be considered polite, you ask?  That’s easy.  Deaf people frequently feel like they have a small community of people whom they can trust, and that the wider world is against them.  Who knows what the people out there will tell them, they think.  But they know they can always rely on their friends to tell them the truth, even if it hurts.  The next time a Deaf person comes up to you and says, “is that a new shirt?  Well, I guess orange is just really not your color;”  just remember that they are showing you how much respect they have for you.  Enough to tell you the truth, no matter what you want to hear.

Another thing Deaf people frequently do that would be considered impolite in hearing society is “gossip” about each other.  Everybody always knows everyone else’s business, and will tell others about it too.  It’s not uncommon for someone to lean over to another person and say, “Did you hear that Sally’s getting a divorce from her husband?”  This is considered polite behavior.

Why is gossip considered OK, even desirable, in the Deaf world?   Deaf people want to feel like they’re a part of a wide community of people who care.  If you know their business, obviously they are valuable enough to the community that people talk about them and care about what’s happening in their life.  I think many people are also relieved that they don’t have to keep telling the story over and over.  If they are getting a divorce, for example, they can just break the news to some close friends.  It minimized the chance of  embarrassing incidents where someone must break the news to an acquaintance they barely know.  The person can just assume, probably correctly, that their acquaintance already knows their business, and move on from there.

Some of the practices in Deaf Culture can seem rude to hearing people.  I find that if you know why something happens, and why people are treating you “rudely”, you begin to understand that it isn’t rudeness at all.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  A sign of respect.

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