Never Mind vs Deaf Nod

We try our best to hear in most situations. We want to hear. If we miss something, we ask for a repeat and still can’t understand, maybe because of background noise or we are stuck on a key word and the other person utters the two most hateful words, “Never mind.” Those words are a pet peeve of mine and as it is to many other hard of hearing people as well.

The immediate feeling when people say, never mind, is hurt because it dismisses us from further communication. It leaves us out of the loop and feeling even more isolated than we already do. Daily, we let many words go by without hearing or understanding, we pick and choose when to ask for repeats so we’re not such a bother. Then when we ask a repeat and get slammed with those words, it goes straight to the heart.

These past few months, I attended a speech reading class. There were three ladies who hadn’t been around others with hearing loss. They were just seeking help after years of doing it alone. At the beginning or end of each class, the topic changed to coping strategies or cochlear implants. One night, one of the girls asked how to handle someone saying, “Never mind.” She went to a church service and someone who usually helped her said those words. Our teacher suggested taking her friend aside and telling her how it hurt and asking her if she would rather find someone else to help.

Then they asked how I dealt with it. First comes the hurt but hot on the heels of that comes anger. I hit the roof. People don’t normally tell me “never mind” twice because in a rant, I let them know I do the best I can and it’s not my fault I have a hearing loss. I didn’t ask for it, I want to be included.  I don’t care how silly the statement was but I insist on knowing what was said…   And sometimes it was silly and nothing I needed to know but at least I was granted the same rights as hearing people. Anger may not be the best way to handle the situation but it comes automatically for me. My friends advice in class about taking that someone aside to talk it out is a better idea and maybe I will remind myself that next time.

My boyfriend was on the receiving end of “never mind” once. He never used it again. One day, while I was at my desk answering an email, he came in and babbled something. I didn’t want to lose my focus on writing so I nodded my head, also known as the deaf nod. He freaked out and hit the roof. “You tuned me out,” he said angrily. “That’s not right and it probably feels just like someone telling you never mind,” and he stormed out of my office. I sat there thunderstruck. The deaf nod equals never mind? It blew me away. Knowing how never mind felt, I took more responsibility listening to others.

To be fair, he should have waited until he had my full attention before starting to talk because even a hearing person can get caught up in a task and tune people out. Still, the whole scene left an impression on me and the wheels started to turn. Is the deaf nod a dismissal of sorts? Even though we are trying not to bother someone (or ourselves at times), the fake out message may come across as if we don’t care enough about them to hear what they have to say. Faking it, for the first time, had a slightly evil feel to it and because of that, I became more aware.

Before that, I hadn’t thought to put the deaf nod into the same category as never mind. What do you think? How do you deal with never mind?


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