Posted on

StreetLeverage: The 2015 Posts that Moved Us

Best of StreetLeverage 2015

 

As a way to welcome 2016, we handpicked 10 posts that inspired reflection, demonstrated courageous thinking, or generated spirited conversation. It is our guess that you were moved by some of these 2015 gems as well. If you missed one, take a moment to enjoy the goodness. * Posts not listed in any particular order.

1.  Sign Language Interpreters and the “F” Word

Sign Language Interpreters and the 'F' Word

One Headline We Wish We had Created Ourselves

Provocative headline aside, Jackie Emmart brings forward the art of asking for and receiving feedback. While the jury is still out on whether “feedback” is a four-letter word or not, it’s a topic that isn’t going away.

Read More…

2. Recognizing Polite Indifference: Sign Language Interpreters & Power

 Polite Indifference

A Personal Story that Resonated

Michele Vincent’s willingness to open up about a work experience gone sideways in order to share her own journey of self-discovery and shine a light on an important issue had staying power for many.

Read More…

3. Missing Narratives in Interpreter Education

Erica West Oyedele at StreetLeverage - X

A Post We Thought Worthy of Even More Attention

Looking back in our history and comparing the statistics shared in Erica West Oyedele’s StreetLeverage – X presentation, not much has changed in the demographics of the profession. Hopefully, as we extend our vision and open our hearts to truly understand, we can invite and support interpreters from underrepresented groups which, in turn, supports the Deaf community in all its diversity.

Read More…

4.  Station Meditation: VRS, Compassion and Sign Language Interpreters

Station Meditation: VRS, Compassion and Sign Language Interpreters

A Positive Outlook on VRS Interpreting

While not as uncommon as one might think, it was refreshing to read a post about VRS that displayed some of the positive aspects of interpreting in video relay. Judi Webb’s long-term experience as a video interpreter shows that longevity in VRS is possible with the right attitude and practice.

Read More…

5. Do Sign Language Interpreter “Accents” Compromise Comprehension?

Carol Padden

A Post that Made Me Conscious of My “Accent” In a Good Way

Carol Padden’s StreetLeverage – Live presentation on sign language interpreter accent will likely resonate for many readers, particularly non-native second language learners. Rather than perpetuating signing errors and disfluent language use, this is an opportunity for interpreters to reflect on their own accent and how they might remedy some of the issues with a little concentrated effort.

Read More…

6.  Self-Awareness: How Sign Language Interpreters Acknowledge Privilege and Oppression

Stacey Storme - StreetLeverage - Live 2015 Talk

I Wanted to Call the Presenter So We Could Have Coffee and Talk

Powerfully, Stacey Storme reminds sign language interpreters that while the situations we enter into as interpreters have nothing to do with us, “Our work has everything to do with us.” The interpreter is the third context in an interpreted communication and it behooves us never to forget that fact.

Read More…

7.  Horizontal Violence: Can Sign Language Interpreters Break the Cycle?

Horizontal Violence: Can Sign Language Interpreters Break the Cycle?

The Most Popular Post This Year

Clearly, many sign language interpreters have had negative experiences with colleagues which could fall into categories like bullying, harassment or intimidation. Kate Block explores how reflective practice might positively impact the interpreting field. It appears that people agree.

Read More…

8.  Deaf Interpreters: Shaping the Future of the Sign Language Interpreting Profession

Eileen Forestal - StreetLeverage - Live 2014

A New Paradigm Emerging for Hearing Interpreters

Eileen Forestal’s StreetLeverage – Live presentation explores the dissonance many hearing interpreters feel about working with Deaf Interpreters and encourages practitioners to come to the table open to the possibility that both groups have something to offer as professionals.

Read More…

9.  10 Lessons from my First Year as a Freelance Sign Language Interpreter

10 Lessons From My First Year as a Freelance Sign Language Interpreter

There is Encouragement and Positivity in the Field of Interpreting Today

Brittany Quickel’s 10 lessons illustrate the power of self-determination and positivity. Sign language interpreters everywhere can benefit from these simple, but sage, tips.

Read More…

10.  National Treasure

Patrick Graybill - StreetLeverage National Treasure 2015

Those Who Inspire

While this wasn’t a post, our 2015 list of goodness would not be complete without one important addition. StreetLeverage was proud to honor Patrick Graybill at StreetLeverage – Live 2015 as the first StreetLeverage – National Treasure honoree.

Read More…

Our Hope

Join us for another year of discovery, vulnerability, and meaningful conversation. We look forward to the magic of the journey that will be 2016.

Posted on

Sign Language Interpreters and the “F” Word

Sign Language Interpreters and the 'F' Word

Receiving feedback is as much an art as giving it. By crafting opportunities to receive feedback, sign language interpreters can begin to erase the negative connotations that often accompany the “F” word.

 

Several hours after a recent interpreting assignment, I received an email from my team interpreter that simply said, “Can we chat about today?” I had an immediate hunch that I was soon to receive feedback about my performance and, despite the year of study I’ve committed to better understanding accountability and the art of receiving feedback, I froze.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Thanks to Sheila Heen and Doug Stone,1 I had the tools to prepare me for this feedback conversation and so I found a spot to sit that was free of distraction and called my colleague. For the next half hour, we successfully navigated what could have been a stressful conversation. As it turns out, I behaved that day in ways that were off-putting, and though I’d like to believe these behaviors were unrecognizable to an outsider, what mattered was that all of them impacted how my colleague experienced the day.

Sign Language Interpreters and Accountability

As sign language interpreters and engaged citizens of the world, we have countless daily opportunities to both give and receive feedback, which means we also have countless opportunities to have conversations that are a success, that go awry, and that fall somewhere in between. Let’s pause for a moment. Can you recall the last time you:

  • worked with an interpreter whose product was not up to snuff;
  • associated with a colleague who didn’t walk the talk in her or his commitment to the Deaf community;
  • were booked to team an assignment with a colleague who is notoriously late; or
  • worked with someone whose behavioral decisions were a turn-off for Deaf and hearing people, and drew undue attention?

Turning the tables, what about the last time a colleague thought you were any of the above? I believe if we are all better prepared to try on ideas that may at first seem off-point, that we’ll develop a more nuanced capacity for empathy and learning, which will in turn make us more proficient practitioners.

Feedback: Challenge or Opportunity?

Feedback is certainly not always a challenge to receive. It “…includes any information you get about yourself. In the broadest sense, it’s how we learn about ourselves from our experiences and from other people — how we learn from life. … So feedback is not just what gets ranked; it’s what gets thanked, commented on, and invited back or dropped.”2 Because we’ll come into contact with solicited and unsolicited feedback every day, from colleagues and not, practicing the art of receiving it is a worthwhile investment for all.

The real leverage is creating pull.”3 

Yes, it’s true that if everyone was more adept at sharing feedback, then we may be able to devote less attention to the art of receiving it. One might make the case, however, that because feedback comes in many forms and from many different people, the only control we will have on how “appreciation (thanks), coaching (here’s a better way to do it), and evaluation (here’s where you stand)”4 are delivered is in how they are received (in other words, we have no control on how feedback is delivered). The giver can be as eloquent or offensive as they choose; it is the receiver who decides whether or not to listen to what is said, how to interpret it, and what to do with it.

Shifting the Feedback Dynamic

With this awareness, I’m hopeful that the sign language interpreting field can begin to shift the feedback dynamic. Instead of investing most of our energy in refining the art of giving feedback, let’s get on board with the receiver soliciting feedback and guiding its provision. In fact, seeking feedback, for better or worse, supports one’s job satisfaction and allows more creativity to solve problems more easily.5 With a job that has been deemed the most cognitively complex task of which humans are capable,6 it’s likely useful to free up some mental energy for problem-solving.

“Creating pull is about mastering the skills required to drive our own learning; it’s about how to recognize and manage our resistance, how to engage in feedback conversations with confidence and curiosity, and even when the feedback seems wrong, how to find insight that might help us grow. It’s also about how to stand up for who we are and how we see the world, and ask for what we need. It’s about how to learn from feedback—yes, even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood.”7

Let’s move forward together — toward a place where we are genuinely interested in being held accountable and one where we seek feedback of all sorts, so as to enrich the practice of interpreting across the profession.

Managing Relationship, Truth, and Identity Triggers

Despite one’s uneasiness at receiving honest observations about their work, actions, and the impact these have on others, it is possible to remain present during the course of any feedback conversation. It’s common to feel triggered into resistance and self-preservation when receiving feedback, but if you can be aware of the reason behind the trigger, it becomes a tool for engagement and inquiry. Heen and Stone outline three different types of triggers: relationship, truth, and identity.8 Your connection to and thoughts about the feedback giver, the truthfulness of the feedback content, and what you believe it says about you can all derail an opportunity for growth, but they can also be managed so as to optimize learning.

Heen and Stone offer eight strategies for managing truth, relationship, and identity triggers:

    1. Separate Appreciation, Coaching, and Evaluation9to ensure alignment of the giver’s intent and the receiver’s understanding;
    2. First Understand10to examine “how to interpret feedback—where it’s coming from, what it’s suggesting you do differently, and why you and the giver might disagree”11;
    3. See Your Blind Spots12to acknowledge that the challenges to seeing ourselves as we really are can be overcome, and develop the tools to do so;
    4. Don’t Switchtrack: Disentangle What from Who13to help you remain open to learning even when the feedback is poorly timed and delivered;
    5. Identify the Relationship System14because “understanding relationship systems helps you move past blame and into joint accountability, and talk productively about these challenging topics, even when the other person thinks this feedback party is all about you”15;
    6. Learn How Wiring and Temperament Affect Your Story16to more fully appreciate why our emotional responses to feedback vary so greatly and why we recover from it in different ways as well;
    7. Dismantle Distortions17to unpack the feedback we receive and, absent of our emotionally-laden framing, understand what it actually means; and
    8. Cultivate a Growth Identity18for those who may hold back from seeking feedback, and because we connect with the world, each other, and ourselves differently, it is useful to “move from a vulnerable fixed identity to a robust growth identity that makes it easier to learn from feedback and experience.”19 

For the sake of word count and reader attention, I will not go any further into these strategies for this article. I will, however, elaborate more on each of these and their application for interpreters (and more) at the StreetLeverage – Live 2016 event in Fremont, CA.

Seeking Honest Feedback

In addition to the strategies briefly outlined above, Heen and Stone offer a question we can ask our colleagues, friends, and other loved ones. If we are truly invested in bettering ourselves and shaping our interactions with people who work with us, we can ask this one question to solicit honest feedback: “What’s one thing you see me doing, or failing to do, that’s getting in my own way?” 20

The next time we’re with an interpreting colleague and/or another Deaf individual with whom we’re working, let’s ask them, “What am I doing that is inhibiting my language choices and production?”, “What am I doing that is getting in my way, in terms of my commitment to the Deaf community?”, “What am I doing that is leading others to say I’m notoriously late?”, “What am I doing – or failing to do – that’s drawing this undue attention from the Deaf and hearing individuals at today’s assignment?” or another question that helps us appreciate the way in which the world engages with us as compared with how we see ourselves engaging with the world. The more we ask this of one another, the more we will shift the way we look at feedback. I predict it will become less of a “four letter word” and more of an open and ongoing conversation that allows us to remain accountable to the Deaf community, one another, and ourselves.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Think back to some of your most successful feedback sessions as an interpreter. What were the conditions that contributed to their success?
  2. What were some of the conditions that contribute to less successful feedback sessions and how might you change those conditions in the future?
  3. How can sign language interpreters support and promote honest dialogue in our local communities based on the model presented here?

Related Posts:

Accountability: A First Step to Harmony Among Sign Language Interpreters? by Sabrina Smith

Vulnerability: A Collaboration Killer for Sign Language Interpreters by Laura Wickless

What Role Does Civility Play in the Sign Language Interpreting Profession by Carolyn Ball

References:

1Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). Penguin Group USA.

2Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014a). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 4). Penguin Group USA.

3Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014b). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 6). Penguin Group USA.

4Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014c). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 18). Penguin Group USA.

5Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014d). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 6). Penguin Group USA.

6Steiner, G. (1975). After Babel: Aspects of language and translation. New York: Oxford University Press.

7Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014e). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 6). Penguin Group USA.

8Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014f). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 16). Penguin Group USA.

9Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014g). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (pp. 29-45). Penguin Group USA.

10Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014i). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (pp.46-76). Penguin Group USA.

11Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014h). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 28). Penguin Group USA.

12Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014j). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (pp.77-101). Penguin Group USA.

13Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014k). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (pp.102-122). Penguin Group USA.

14Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014m). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p.123-144). Penguin Group USA.

15Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014l). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 101). Penguin Group USA.

16Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014n). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p.147-164). Penguin Group USA.

17Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014o). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (pp.165-182). Penguin Group USA.

18Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014q). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (pp.183-205). Penguin Group USA.

19Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014p). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 146). Penguin Group USA.

20Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014r). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood) (p. 258). Penguin Group USA.

Posted on

Sign Language Interpreters: Attire Leaves a First & Lasting Impression

We only get one chance to make a first impression. This article explores how interpreter’s attire choices are more than just a reflection of themselves, and provides one question every interpreter should ask before stepping out the door.

Do you mind your ABCs (Appearance, Behavior, and Communication) as you prepare for every assignment? Can you think of an interpreter who has professionally mastered her or his ABCs and the impact that mastery has had on the Deaf community members with whom that interpreter has worked? What about an interpreter who exhibits what are referred to as Toxic Traits?1 These may include a “way of being” that drains the energy in the room, dandruff, bad breath or body odor, hair dyed unnatural colors, cleaning teeth or biting nails in public, entering a room with more bags than your local grocer, loud makeup, dangling or sparkly accessories, wrinkled clothing, bright nails or French manicures, worn out shoes, and/or an appearance that is inappropriate for the given environment. Dare we say that every practitioner out there has a Toxic Trait story to recall? This begs the question: did you say something to the Toxic Trait offender?

[View post in ASL]

We have been conditioned over the years to believe that someone else will handle it: our team will tell us if we cross the line ethically, Deaf people will tell us if they don’t like our clothing or accessories, and RID will manage ethics and punitive measures.  Someone else will tell me if my appearance disempowers the Deaf person(s) in the room.  What if you’re that “someone else”?  Consider this a call to action, to collectively shift our culture to one of appearance accountability: both for ourselves and for one another.

The impetus for this article comes from nationwide conversations with consumers and colleagues.  In 2012, we gave a presentation to 70+ ASL interpreters, designed in response to the trend of interpreters’ appearance and attire selections reflecting poorly upon the Deaf community.  We believe this topic isn’t being taken seriously enough given the consequences it carries. Our hope is that by the end of this article, you’ll understand how the inappropriate appearance choices of sign language interpreters serve to further oppress Deaf people, potentially limiting their workforce participation and mobility.

Why First Impressions Are So Important

It’s no secret that outside of our community, the field of sign language interpreting is not yet fully accepted as a legitimate profession.  We struggle for consistency and predictability in our national testing system, our business practices vary from one practitioner to the next, our ethical code prescribes behaviors instead of enumerating bedrock principles, etc. How many times have you been asked whether or not you’re the Deaf patient/candidate/employee’s relative?  Like it or not, the non-deaf majority sees us more as an extension of Deaf people than as professionals performing a cognitively complex task.

When we presented in 2012, we sought testimonials and perspectives from Deaf consumers and our colleagues to share.  We find what Dennis Cokely had to offer particularly poignant:

“It is certainly undeniable that society in general has become much more casual in dress and “casual Fridays” have, like a virus, crept into the rest of the work week.  I think this has given many interpreters “permission” to dress and act much more casually than I think they should. … The fact of the matter is that interpreters are definitely seen by society at large as aligned with Deaf people and present to help Deaf people; this despite our assertions that we are “neutral” and are there to serve both parties.  Society in general certainly believes that it is Deaf people who need interpreters, not the hearing bankers, lawyers, doctors, sales clerks, teachers, counselors and wait staff Deaf people are interacting with.  Society in general judges Deaf people by the company they keep – and that company is US!!!!”

In 2012, Anna Witter-Merithew shared this perspective in a StreetLeverage.com post (note Anna’s comment on January 18, 2012 at 12:16am): “How we dress does impact on how we are perceived AND how deaf people are perceived. …Dressing according to the system norms is one way to improve how we are perceived in that system.”2  It is fair to say, from Anna and Dennis’ thoughts, from empirical research about impressions, and from our collective observations, that our appearance and behavioral decisions reflect upon Deaf people, for better or worse.

Research tells us that “others immediately form stereotypical associations about you that are frequently emotionally based, and that once those impressions are formed, others’ rational and emotional brains seek to validate those impressions.”3  Studies show that you have as few as six seconds4 when you meet someone to create a lasting impression.  This impression will impact their relationship with you and, more importantly, with the Deaf individual for whose interview/appointment/etc. you’re booked to interpret.  “After the fact, it’s easy for someone to tell whether you are a rarity who actually tends to every detail.  But before you get the opportunity to prove yourself, people will have to draw that conclusion from the way you look, [communicate], and act.  If your hair isn’t combed, your clothes aren’t neat, your shoes aren’t shined and you don’t [communicate] in a logical and orderly fashion, why should they assume your work will reflect any greater care?”5  If they are making these judgments about our work, and our work is Deaf people’s lives, then what reflection does that cast and what’s the ripple effect?

Judging a Book By its Cover

There are countless studies done by business, law, and medical schools across the country about the impact of attire on the customer, client, and patient’s perception of the respective professional’s expertise.  In one healthcare study, respondents were shown to overwhelmingly favor physicians in professional attire with a white coat.  Wearing professional dress while providing patient care by physicians may favorably influence trust and confidence-building in the medical encounter.6  In the legal field, the impact of appearance has long been taken seriously and there are consequences when one fails to satisfy the expectation.  “Certainly by becoming a member of the bar, a lawyer does not terminate his membership in the human race, nor does he surrender constitutional rights possessed by private citizens. … However ‘[membership] in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions.’”7  We believe that the nature of our work and invitation into the lives of Deaf people is also a privilege burdened with conditions, including that of adjusting one’s appearance to suit the environment.

We are not suggesting sign language interpreters wear physicians’ white coats to their assignments in healthcare.  What we are suggesting is that working in the interpreting profession, your casual attire may not impact your future success.  Instead, it is more likely that it would impact opportunities for success for the Deaf people with whom we work.  When we’re invited into the lives of Deaf people, we are guests and we should treat those experiences as such.  To dress down as a default undermines the very respect we purport to uphold.

So What? Why This Matters

When was the last time your attire choices could have impacted whether or not the Deaf candidate got the job?  Will you ever know for sure?  Has your desire to express your personality ever overshadowed the Deaf researcher’s presentation to her or his non-deaf colleagues?  How do you know if the way you entered the room impacted the energy – did you add to the tension in the business negotiation?  Or if the Social Security worker thought differently about the Deaf applicant when your colleague wore jeans and boots to the appointment?  How many times has your (or your colleague’s) appearance been a distraction, a deterrent or a detriment?

We will never know the impact of our decisions with certainty… until we ask with an open mind.  In our research, we received numerous counts of impact from Deaf community members.  Once we started asking, the stories were virtually never-ending.  Below is a handful of what was shared.

  1. On a doctor’s impression of this Deaf parent: “I was recently at a doctor’s appointment for my daughter.  The interpreter walked in with a loud, low-cut top.  She had long nails and WILD hair…I had to keep asking her to repeat whatever she said – I was severely distracted by the amount of skin she showed.  I wonder what the doctor thought of me, having to ask her to repeat herself so many times…”
  2. A Deaf professional and her/his strategy for requests: “I mostly prefer that interpreters look neat and well put together…there have been occasions when I am in a situation where impressions are important and I will not use certain interpreters because their attire/presentation CAN impact the perception of me and my expertise.”
  3. On accessories, from a Deaf instructor: “It’s very rare for me to make an issue of their clothing choice of the day, but if it really irks me, I would approach the interpreter after the interpreting job is finished.  I can’t make the interpreter to go back home and change; it’s rather late and so I must accept the choice of clothing.  But with accessories, I can ask.”
  4. From a Deaf professional: “I was invited to serve on a panel and dressed in a suit and high heels, as did the other panelists.  My interpreter showed up in shorts, late, standing her tennis racket on the side of the panel table while she interpreted.  I was so embarrassed…”
  5. On the desire to express oneself: “You want to wear a tongue ring, lip ring, nose ring, etc.?  Take it out, go to the job, and then when you’re done, put it back in.  Draw the most attention to your work, not yourself.  It may bug the hell out of you because you want to express yourself, but you’re hired to work for a situation, and you don’t make the rules.”
  6. On trying to open the conversation: “Once an interpreter showed up wearing a low-cut dress and when I asked her about her choice she responded with an attitude that I wasn’t the one hiring her.  I asked her if they found out, what she’d do without them and she replied that she’d just find another job.  Then I asked her what she’d do without me, and she was suddenly at a loss for words.”

These behaviors are noticed by interpreter coordinators as well.  Here are a couple of their thoughts:

  1. “I am careful about who I do and do not hire to work in certain situations, based on what I know certain interpreters to wear.  My clients cannot afford to have the interpreter draw positive or negative attention – the work is too sensitive to allow for inappropriate first impressions.”
  2. “I have had people show up to an assignment in t-shirts and jeans and it MUST be addressed.   Sadly, I now have a clause in my booking email: ‘All assignments are considered business register, please dress professionally.’”

What do these behaviors say about our respect for consumers and their lives, our profession, and ourselves?  What does it say that interpreter coordinators need to manage our attire choices?  And so we ask, when is the last time you asked, with an open-mind, your team and/or the Deaf individual(s) about your appearance or attire choices?

Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s time for change.  We do not believe sign language interpreters need to revert to the CSUN smock days.8  We believe that regardless of our attire choices, most interpreters share the same goal of rendering excellent interpreting services that provide communication access for people who do not share a common language.  We also believe that we have allowed ourselves to become complacent when it comes to holding one another and ourselves accountable.

Matt Etemad-Gilbertson wrote an article entitled, “Polite Disregard – Does It Serve Us?” which was originally published in a VRS newsletter.  In it, he eloquently paints the picture of our current state of affairs, which we believe is still relevant today.

“It has been my experience that the interpreting community is filled with caring professional nurturing, thoughtful mentorship and amazingly talented and ethical practitioners of our shared work…it has also been my experience that “polite disregard” rules the day among us on many occasions…  Polite disregard is the fear of not knowing how to share what we’ve seen or heard in the work.  Polite disregard is that moment during or post assignment when our team turns and says “any feedback for me?”  Polite disregard is when you actually have noticed a troubling pattern that you’d like to point out but it’s too hard to say.  In a practice-based profession like interpreting, polite disregard inhibits us from having difficult conversations that ultimately serve to compromise the integrity of the work.”

The only way we will get from where we are, in a state of complacency, to where we would like to shift the field, is by insisting on a culture of mutual accountability where dressing appropriately is the norm.  We need to stop dancing around conversations and collectively commit to embodying a “way of being” that subtly blends in with interpreted encounters, regardless of our personal preferences.  It’s time to step up and ask the hard questions of ourselves first, and then of one another that keep us all accountable.  We propose that before every assignment, sign language interpreters ask themselves:

Do my attire and overall appearance reflect my commitment to appropriately represent the Deaf people with whom I will work, and the environment in which I will work?

If the answer to either of those questions is uncertain, or a clear “no,” then it’s time to go home and change before stepping foot into the lives of Deaf people.  After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

 

References

Dimitrius, J. E. and Mazzarella, M. (2000) Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You. New York, NY: Fireside.

2 Witter-Merithew, Anna. (January 18, 2012). Response to Sign Language Interpreters: Stepping out of the Shadow of Invisibility. Retrieved from http://www.streetleverage.com/2012/01/sign-language-interpreters-stepping-out-of-the-shadow-of-invisibility/#comments (comment from January 18, 2012 at 12:16am)

3 Dimitrius, J. E. and Mazzarella, M. (2000). Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You. New York, NY: Fireside. p.76.

4 Winerman, Lea. (March 2005). ‘Thin slices’ of life. Monitor on Psychology, volume 36. Retrieved from  http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar05/slices.aspx

5 Dimitrius, J. E. & Mazzarella, M. (2000). Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You. New York, NY: Fireside. p.62.

6 Gosling, R. & Standen, R. (1998). Doctors’ dress. British Journal of Psychiatry, 172, 188-189.

7 Keasler, J. (1974, July 31). Tied to be fit? The Miami Newspaper. Retrieved from: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2206&dat=19740731&id=ZdglAAAAIBAJ&sjid=2vMFAAAAIBAJ&pg=847,5108664


8 Solomon, S. (1987, February 26). Deaf Students Follow the Signs in CSUN Classes. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://articles.latimes.com/1987-02-26/news/vw-6030_1_deaf-student

 

BIO

Lena Dumont, Matt Etemad-Gilbertson,  Laura O’Callahan, Kristy Moroney, Jackie Emmart, Will English, and SooJin Chu are the team who created the original First and Lasting Impressions presentation, shared with the Greater Boston community in March 2012. Together, the first six represent 85 years of interpreting experience, and work or have worked in many arenas of the interpreting world including, but not limited to: general community,  K-12 and post-secondary education, healthcare, VRS, business, government, and conferences. SooJin is an independent fashion consultant and an expert in successful dressing that fosters positive first and lasting impressions. They all strongly believe that tailoring an interpreter’s appearance and behavior to a given situation is not only possible, it is essential.

The authors wish to extend their sincere gratitude to Carol-lee Aquiline, for her time and energy invested in the translation of this article. Thank you, Carol-lee!