I know an adorable seventeen-month old girl who uses sign language as part of her repertoire of communication skills. What a marvelous thing to watch her sign “more please” or “all done” or “milk” instead of wailing, crying, throwing a tantrum or simply being frustrated beyond all reason. After being in the car for way too long one day she kept signing “all done” to her mom in the rear view mirror. She was definitely all done being in that car seat and ready for a change of scenery. Such an adaptive kid!
I’ve thought about her and wondered if I need to add some kind of sign language to my life. Not American Sign Language necessarily. What I’m thinking I need to have is something akin to the universal sign for I’m choking, (hands at the throat, turning blue, panic on your face) or you’re an idiot driver, (we all know what that looks like, eesh!) or hello (waving a hand.)
I’m thinking something a little more helpful. What I need is a sign for “you’re right, I was being selfish, I’m sorry.” Then, I need another sign that admits no guilt but apologizes profusely, “Can you ever forgive me, I’m so very sorry.”
I also need a sign that clearly communicates, “tonight would be a good night for you to get take out for dinner.”
There is a big need for a sign that says “please don’t talk to me right now or I’ll come unglued.” There’s a more urgent need for a sign that clearly means “please notice me and pay attention and give me a hug before I implode.”
Too complicated? Yeah, probably. Okay, how about a sign for “lonely,” “need a friend,” “in over my head,” “check back in a bit,” or “I like you.” A little too direct maybe. Hmmm. Maybe we need direct and concise and less nuance.
Sure, I know there’s that whole body language thing, but it’s so subtle that it’s not always clear. The “chin wave/head nod” is a great example of this. It’s a guy thing, or a teenager thing, or both. There’s a sort of eye contact, but not quite, and then instead of waving hello the other person kind of lifts their chin at you. Like a fist bump, but not. When you get a “chin wave” you feel cool and accepted, but not quite acknowledged. Couldn’t they have just waved? Do they not want anyone to know they know you? See, mixed message.
My favorite universal sign is the smile. The genuine smile. Try smiling at the kid in the grocery cart. Then wait for it. They get this surprised look that turns into a grin. Then wink. Okay, maybe not wink, the parent might get weirded out. But smile at them like you’re really seeing them. Smiling at children always surprises them and their response is fun to watch. You just might make their day! And yours!
While you’re at it wave at the sign holder on the corner, too. I have a friend whose walking route took her past one of these human sign holders. She took some time every day to chat a bit, found out this woman’s story. What a story!! Now instead of looking away, or pretending distraction, I wave back at her because she is a real person, doing a tough job, (especially tough in the AZ heat) and I want to acknowledge her. I’ll bet those people hardly ever get a friendly wave. Wouldn’t you want one if you were them?
But I digress.
Wish I could do the Spock Mind Meld on some people. Boy, would that come in handy!! Alas, mind reading is another topic for another day.
I’m just trying to up my communication skills here. Thinking out loud. Any suggestions you can shoot my way would be very welcome.
Here’s one last idea. We could try using words.
- Baby Sign Language: Mastering Eat and Milk! (miniskirtandspittingup.wordpress.com)