We have recently employed a part-time office cleaning boy named “Sarfan”. He cares about every single thing in our company, some would say more than we do. Sadly he was born deaf and doesn’t have any traditional or special educational background. There is a very popular special education institute where we live and I still wonder how a special person like Sarfan has been ignored.
I still remember the day that we hired him. Indeed it was difficult. Since he does not have an education, he’s afraid to touch our papers, books, pen and computers. When we were negotiating his rates, I tried to write the numbers on paper. He reacted very strangely to this gesture and from what I understoodfrom his signs, he was trying to say that he cannot read or write. Then I showed him the numbers using my fingers and he was so happy. Initially I thought that this partnership was not going to work out in the long run, but I wanted to give him a chance anyway.
Life With Sarfan
Two weeks have passed and Sarfan is still working with our company. The majority of our team members have been surprised to learn that Sarfan cannot speak or hear. All of us here at Frontcube are amazed with his tenacity and dedication. He is meticulously neat and always wants to go the extra mile to satisfy.
My wife, Mifrah, started her own business this year and we decided to employ Sarfan full-time. My wife also had the same fear I had initially – “How am I going to communicate?”. After two weeks, I saw Sarfan trying to explain to my wife that some items were out of stock while she was taking inventory. I asked my wife her thoughts on communication with Sarfan now and she said, that she didn’t feel that they had a problem communicating at all. I agreed.
A week later, Sarfan invited my wife and I to his home to meet his family (particularly his wife.) Just like her husband Sarfan’s wife is unable to speak or hear, but unlike him, she has received a traditional and special education from the aforementioned institute. When we first got to their home we were very ambitious, trying to communicate using sign language that we had learned from Sarfan…but we failed. We couldn’t understand her traditional sign language which left the conversation very lacking! Fortunately for us, Sarfan acted as an interpreter for us all.
A Lesson Learned
In reflection, the situation with Sarfan and his wife taught me a very important lesson.
The difference between Sarfan and his wife is that she uses more formal sign language, where Sarfan just uses, what I call ‘object oriented sign language’ (bit techie, isn’t it?). It’s simple and easily understandable and gets the job done.
The difference between the two types of communication methods, i feel, is an invaluable point of focus for designers. Think of how many times we use technical jargon to impress clients, try to write an article utilizing an impressive vocabulary, spend hours leafing through a thesaurus to improve upon a speech that we’re going to deliver?
During communication our goal should always be to communicate our ideas in a clear and concise manner. It should not serve as a session to impress others or showcase our extensive vocabulary.
At the end of the day what counts is what the audience comes away with from your discussion. If you spend your time trying to impress them with technical jargon, chances are that you will miss the point completely and leave your audience with plenty of questions.