How To Talk to Deaf People

D is for Deaf.

You may have a friend, a classmate, or a family member who is deaf. Or maybe they just don’t hear very well.

Sometimes they talk with their hands. Sometimes they read lips. Sometimes they do both. Here’s a few tips on how to talk to your deaf friends.

Tips for talking to deaf people:

  • Be patient.
  • Don’t talk too fast.
  • Be ready to repeat things.
  • Talk in a quiet, well-lit place.
  • Ask how they want to talk (sign language, lip reading, psychic powers).

Sometimes you won’t understand each other. That’s ok.

When you don’t understand each other:

  • Don’t pretend you understand if you don’t.
  • Ask them to repeat.
  • Keep pencil/paper handy. (Write down hard-to-understand words).
  • Don’t laugh or make fun of them. (How do you feel when people laugh at you?)
  • Don’t assume nodding means understanding. (Ask them ‘Do you understand?’ or ‘Do you want me to repeat?’)

Talking to lip readers:

  • Talk in a well-lit place.
  • Make sure they can see your face, (and you can see theirs.)
  • Talk a little slower than usual.
  • Look directly at them when you talk.

Talking in a group? Sit or stand in a circle so they can see everyone’s face.

When you talk, don’t do this:

  • Don’t shout. (This changes the shape of your face.)
  • Don’t exaggerate you lip movements.
  • Don’t cover your mouth.
  • Don’t put anything in your mouth.
  • Don’t turn away while talking.
  • Don’t make big motions with your hands. (This distracts from your face.)
  • A great way to communicate with people who are deaf is to learn sign language!

    Reasons to learn sign language:

    • It’s like learning a secret code.
    • You can talk to deaf people anywhere.
    • You can translate for people who can’t sign.

    Practice signing while you’re waiting in line, or stuck in the car, the bus, or waiting for something to cook.

    Be a thoughtful friend:

    • Make an effort to learn how your friends talk.
    • Thank God for the blessings he gave you.
    • Use every gift you have to serve others.
    • Kindly correct people who think deaf people are not as smart, or not as capable as others.


    “Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. Instead, honor the Lord.”
    -Lev 19:14

    “Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
    -Exodus 4:11

    “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”
    -Luke 14:12-13

    “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
    – Psalm 139:13-14

    “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
    – Ephesians 2:10

    “Jesus’s disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but so that the work of God might be displayed in him.”
    – John 9:2-3

    “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings. For suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”
    – Romans 5:3-5

    “But the Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
    – 2 Corinthians 12:9

    Isaiah 29:18 || Isaiah 35:5 || Mark 7:37 || Luke 7:22


    “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
    – Mark Twain

    “Think you of the fact that a deaf person cannot hear. Then, what deafness may we not all possess? What senses do we lack that we cannot see and cannot hear another world all around us?”
    -Frank Herbert

    “If I hadn’t lost my hearing, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It forced me to maximize my own potential. I have to be better than the average person to succeed.”
    ― Lou Ferrigno

    “Watch me when people say deaf and dumb, or deaf mute, and I give them a look like you might get if you called Denzel Washington the wrong name.”
    – Marlee Matlin

    “I’m not a deaf musician. I’m a musician who happens to be deaf.”
    – Evelyn Glennie

    “One of the most effective ways to learn about oneself is by taking seriously the cultures of others. It forces you to pay attention to those details of life which differentiate them from you.”
    ― Edward T. Hall

    “…But people who think they can project themselves into deafness are mistaken because you can’t. And I’m not talking about imagining what a deaf person’s whole life is like I even mean just realizing what it is like for an instant.”
    – Richard Masur

    Categories: Group Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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    6 thoughts on “How To Talk to Deaf People

    1. I really want to learn sign-language. At work I had a guy come in and he was deaf. Because I couldn’t sign, we wrote on paper and I was able to help him purchase what he wanted. It was actually kinda fun to write an entire conversation back and forth that way. But still, I really want to be able to sign.

      Konstanz Silverbow
      A-to-Z April Blogging Challenge

      • Good thinking! Glad to hear a field report for what works.

        Learning sign is a great idea. Tons of resources online, and your local community colleges or community groups will have classes in ASL. If you can plug into a group like that, you will learn much faster, and meet awesome people like yourself!

    2. I loved the Twain quote, very wise.
      maggie winter

    3. What an extraordinary post (and I mean that in a really cool way!). I’d love to learn sign language… it must be amazing to have such a wonderful skill.
      Suzy Turner, YA Author

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