I recently spoke with a young man who confided how people always interrupt him while he speaks. They think they’re actually helping the conversation flow rather than just wait for him to finish his thought. Although, it’s very important to realize there is no help in cutting someone off. A person’s words are sacred and should be treated as such. I researched and compiled a list of tips for effective communication:
Use a Normal Tone of Voice
Sometimes, people may (unknowingly) use a condescending tone while speaking to a disabled person. They may speak in a higher register to ensure the listener can hear. Don't do this - unless asked to. Disabled people are people. They don't need assistance in listening. Speak to the person - and not to their condition.
Be Patient (Do NOT interrupt)
The person you may be speaking with may stutter/stammer. Sometimes, they make take a long time to answer a question. This is okay, and will help exercise your patience. If someone takes their time to speak, take your time to listen. Do NOT interrupt or try to speed them up. This is rude and will only make them feel uncomfortable talking to you. Our voices are sacred and should be treated as such.
Speak Directly to the Person instead of the Assistant/Interpreter
My first time speaking to a deaf person was difficult. He'd sign then his interpreter would translate, so I'd naturally direct my attention to the interpreter. It wasn't until after the conversation ended that I realized how rude I behaved. Assistants and interpreters may speak for the subject, but they are NOT the speaker. Listeners must direct their attention to the speaker - regardless of who speaks for them.
PS - The next time that I spoke with him, I turned my back to the interpreter to give him my full, undivided attention. It wasn't a big deal, but he saw that I was trying to be a better and more respectful listener.
Ask for the Preferred Form of Communication
As someone who struggles with stuttering, I much prefer text communication than verbal. It's easier for me to write my thoughts down than engage in a vocal conversation. My work life would be convenient if I were offered this option for every meeting. Alas, I don't have this luxury - but I could offer this to the people I speak with - "What's your preferred form of communication: Verbal or text?"
By asking this simple question, we're offering a platform for the person to feel most comfortable.
Reword rather than Repeat Something that is not Understood
Imagine you’re learning a new language and try speaking with a native speaker. Everything’s going well until the speaker uses an obscure word - something that you’ve never heard before. You show confusion, so the speaker repeats himself - using the same word that confused you initially. And yet you still feel confused. It doesn’t matter how many times the native speaker repeats himself, the sentence still confuses you. Wouldn’t it make sense for the native speaker to use a simpler word instead?
This is why it’s important to rearrange your sentence - and not repeat it - when speaking to someone who may be confused. Some words may not be easily understood. It happens to the best of us. Although, we could become more effective speakers if we choose to simplify our words rather than repeat them.