Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


End the awkward
May 17, 2014 10:43 AM   Subscribe

SCOPE assists you in dealing with your awkward.
posted by latkes (49 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
You've pulled but just as you get down to business you realise he/she has got a prosthetic leg. Do you…

Pardon?
posted by jwhite1979 at 10:58 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


You've pulled picked someone up but just as you get down to business you realise he/she has got a prosthetic leg. Do you…

I scored Ambassador of Cool. Which is good, I guess? Leads me to believe that cool means something else in the UK, though.
posted by axiom at 11:05 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I think this is a good idea and I appreciate it but if you take away all my awkwardness I won't have any personality left.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:10 AM on May 17 [17 favorites]


I am an Ambassador of Cool.

This will be the only time in my life that I am cool so I am going to bask for a moment.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 11:10 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Try not to make assumptions about what someone can do, how they live or how being disabled affects them.

That's the kind of advice that sounds good on paper, but leads to absurd situations if actually applied. Sure, go ahead and ask the paraplegic guy if he wants to go mountain biking. That'll go over well.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:20 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Ambassador of cool here, too! I hadn't realized that working as a caregiver has real-world applications, but I guess it does. I kept expecting to see a truly awkward scenario suggested--something involving bodily fluid or an unfortunate Freudian slip--but they were all so ordinary. Perhaps ten years ago I wouldn't have done so well on the test. True story: once, many years ago, when college had let out for the summer, I took a job at a media retailer called Hastings; it wasn't until my wife picked me up and mentioned it that I realized the man who had been doing my orientation for the last four hours--ON A CASH REGISTER--had just three [congenitally deformed?] fingers on his right hand. Which I'd shaken twice.
posted by jwhite1979 at 11:24 AM on May 17


Apparently, I am 'A Big Dollop of Cringe'. I guess saying, "Your chair's got some baller rims, yo!" is not as socially acceptable as I'd imagined.
posted by chara at 11:26 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]



Try not to make assumptions about what someone can do, how they live or how being disabled affects them.

That's the kind of advice that sounds good on paper, but leads to absurd situations if actually applied. Sure, go ahead and ask the paraplegic guy if he wants to go mountain biking. That'll go over well.


The key word here, I believe, is try, which is indeed great advice. I don't think anyone expects us to willfully dismiss our common sense.
posted by jwhite1979 at 11:30 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I'm hard of hearing and I haaaate being touched to get my attention unless it's unavoidable or it's by a close friend. Just move in to my line of sight. Make sure I can see your lips. It's difficult or impossible to understand you if you cover your mouth or turn away while you're talking to me.
posted by desjardins at 11:32 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]


"Pulled" is British for "picked up someone to go have sex with".

Aaaand ....

"picked up" is American for "met in someone in a social situation and agreed to go off somewhere together".
posted by benito.strauss at 11:32 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Where is "grab the person by the body part you identify as most affected by disability, and start yelling for Jesus to get down here and fix it"?

Is that so suave it's off the charts or something?
posted by ernielundquist at 11:39 AM on May 17


jwhite1979: The key word here, I believe, is try, which is indeed great advice. I don't think anyone expects us to willfully dismiss our common sense.

But that's what 'don't make assumptions about what someone can do' is, dismissing your common sense.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:39 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I have a Weird-But-Mostly-Invisible handicap and trying to explain that shit is not only extremely awkward, but it requires me to keep a civil tongue in my head, because if I have to hear "yeah, I sunburn really easily, too" one more time from some woman who looks like George Hamilton compared to my Edward Cullen cosplay (sans sparkles), I am going to start very loudly asking if they have to go to the hospital when they do and if they have to have expensive treatments to fix the damage that are so gruesome to look at for the first two weeks that when your face-hiding scarf accidentally slips from one ear in Walgreens while you're picking up yet another healing ointment a small child begins to lungishly wail at the sight of you, and I really could not guarantee that I would not end before I reached decibels somewhere between a jackhammer and a jet engine.
posted by adipocere at 11:43 AM on May 17 [9 favorites]


But that's what 'don't make assumptions about what someone can do' is, dismissing your common sense.

No, not dismissing it. Just holding it lightly. That's what's suggested by "try". I think, anyway.
posted by jwhite1979 at 11:45 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


The quiz says I'm an "Ambassador of Cool," which is of course utter bologna, as I'm just about the most awkward, nervous heap of social incompetence this side of Woody Allen. It's just that I don't become any more distressed around people with visible disabilities than I do around anyone else.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:48 AM on May 17 [8 favorites]


mitrovar--never assume--but your initial response struck me as one of those obligatory responses where figurative is taken as literal just for effect.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:49 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


This is the best disability awkwardness moment of all time. Of all time!

My encounter with Bill Clinton went much better. When he stuck out his hand expecting me to take it and I shook my head, he picked my hand up off my wheelchair's armrest, raised it to his lips and kissed it. There's a reason they called him Slick Willie.

(My grandfather's wife asked me if I was planning to ever wash that hand again. I replied that I promptly had it sanitized.)
posted by Soliloquy at 12:05 PM on May 17 [18 favorites]


I got Ambassador of Cool because I could tell what they wanted you to say, but personally I cringe at the idea that they recommend deliberately touching a stranger uninvited in public, especially one who doesn't have any idea you're there. I would move into their line of sight or at least try to wave a hand in their line of sight if I had to get the attention of a Deaf stranger.
posted by pbrim at 12:10 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


I went to take someone's hand in a contra dance once, and there wasn't time to ask his preference when I realized it wasn't there, so I gently laid mine on his elbow. I didn't meet him again after that set to find out if that was what he wanted - I'm terrible at reading signals.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:20 PM on May 17


I am Ambassador of Cool. Oh, is that also in the survey?
posted by michaelh at 12:29 PM on May 17


Waving your hand in someone's face at a bar is less gauche than tapping that person's shoulder to offer them a drink? I get that some people have rigid space bubbles (more so in America?), and we should only tap a stranger's shoulder with the understanding that we might be doing something unwelcome, in which case we should offer an apology and move on. But trying at a bar to get into a person's line of sight, to the extent of even waving a hand in front of them--that just seems way more invasive to me than a tap.
posted by jwhite1979 at 12:31 PM on May 17 [6 favorites]


Sure, go ahead and ask the paraplegic guy if he wants to go mountain biking. That'll go over well.

People who are parapalegic can go mountain biking, so assuming that they can't or won't want to is a prejudiced assumption.
posted by muddgirl at 12:31 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]


And for people who aren't downhill thrill seekers, there are hand-crank mountain bikes.
posted by muddgirl at 12:34 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


This was cool, thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:42 PM on May 17


I guess some people don't care for touching much, but if you are going to touch someone to get their attention, I don't see the problem in touching their upper arm. This, according to school officials instructing teachers on appropriate/inappropriate touching, understandably a rather sensitive area in teacher/student relationships, is the least apt-to-be-misinterpreted place to touch a student.
posted by kozad at 12:46 PM on May 17


But trying at a bar to get into a person's line of sight, to the extent of even waving a hand in front of them--that just seems way more invasive to me than a tap.

Watch the video again. All he had to do was step up to the bar next to her. It would have been completely natural for her to turn to see who had just approached, and then he could speak. No one has ever waved their hands in front of my face unless they were deliberately being rude. My peripheral vision works fine. I will always turn to look at someone's face to see whether they're talking to me.
posted by desjardins at 12:47 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Just to be clear - I'm not saying that people who tap other people on the arm are horrible creepers. I'm just saying that it's often unnecessary, and why not make people comfortable if you can?
posted by desjardins at 12:49 PM on May 17 [5 favorites]


I am an Ambassador of Cool in the strictest sense of the word, in that I am a stranger to the country of Cool who has been sent there as a representative of a distinctly un-Cool people.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:50 PM on May 17 [20 favorites]


The touching thing may be an area (from previous threads I suspect it might be) where the UK and the US differ culturally.
posted by pipeski at 12:51 PM on May 17


That's fair. Me though, I have no hearing problems, just attention problems, and would need a tap to know someone wanted to talk to me, especially in a noisy and/or crowded environment like a bar.
posted by jwhite1979 at 12:56 PM on May 17


I think the main trick of the quiz is just getting people to think about scenarios before they happen in real life. It is pretty easy to figure out what the correct answer is supposed to be, and most people can probably make a fair guess if they have time to think it through. A lot of awkwardness and rude behaviors come down to people getting caught flat footed.

One of the really great things about having an internet full of stuff at your disposal, too, is that you can look up answers to things and learn about different perspectives without having to ask individual people questions they might be tired of answering. So not only can you think about things ahead of time, you can actually research them and get different perspectives.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:02 PM on May 17 [7 favorites]


I have a disabled grandmother and on the whole, I find people not to behave awkward or insensitive toward her unless it is in a hospital setting -- and then discrimination and general awkward ignorance kicks in overdrive. It is as if people there have never seen a disabled person in their entire lives.

A very nice little reminder and thank you for the link...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:12 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Because confession is good for the soul:

My first stage management gig was in college, with a company called Theater By The Blind - and as the name implies, they worked almost exclusively with blind or visually-challenged actors. I was initially a little self-conscious about not wanting to be awkward, but everyone was generally awesome, and also very used to people trying to do the whole I'm-not-trying-to-be-awkward thing, so I got past that pretty quick; the pace of the rehearsals also distracted us all. (Plus playing fetch with one of the cast members' seeing-eye dogs when he was off duty was awesome.)

But I didn't know just how used-to-things I was until one day, before one of the shows, I caught a few members of the cast smoking backstage. "What the hell???" I screeched. "Are you guys nuts? What makes you think it's a good idea to smoke back here with all this stuff - you're BLIND!"

As soon as the words were out, I clapped my hands over my mouth, horrified. The cast - who'd never seen me have that kind of hardline tantrum yet - stared at me for a second, and then completely and totally lost it. "Yeah, we're being dumb," they all said, extinguishing their cigarettes and soothing me as I frantically apologized. They pointed out that this was a sign I was clearly comfortable enough with them to call them on bullshit rather than pulling my punches out of any kind of "political correctness" or anything. And because it is really dumb for anyone to smoke backstage.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on May 17 [14 favorites]


No one has ever waved their hands in front of my face unless they were deliberately being rude. My peripheral vision works fine.

Well, mine doesn't. I'd far rather have a polite, gentle touch on the shoulder than someone hanging around in my blind spot thinking I'm ignoring them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:35 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


On the whole touching to get attention thing: I'm sure Scope asked deaf people what they tend to prefer (though of course everybody differs).
posted by Thing at 1:37 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Funny thing about the linked video: I have a friend (friend of my wife actually) whose right arm was amputated above the elbow, and I shake his stump every time I see him. That's how he prefers it.
posted by dry white toast at 2:31 PM on May 17


So I took this advanced calculus class back in college, and would always sit in the back next to this guy in a wheelchair, and we started arguing about pro-choice/anti-choice one day, and as I got to know him a little bit, I realized that he had a single mom situation, and she was his only caretaker, and that he probably had this "I'm anti-choice because that choice might have been me" thing going on. Then I went to his house for his birthday a few weeks after the class ended, and he showed me his pistol collection, and was all about Jesus and stuff, and I was like "whoa, no thank you," and we never really hung out after that, but for a minute there I was an ambassador of cool just like my quiz result from today probably.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:37 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


I'm hard of hearing and I haaaate being touched to get my attention unless it's unavoidable or it's by a close friend. Just move in to my line of sight. Make sure I can see your lips. It's difficult or impossible to understand you if you cover your mouth or turn away while you're talking to me.

Yeah I was a little annoyed that they didn't offer that option at all. Ugh please don't touch me unless I am literally about to be maimed or killed...
posted by like_a_friend at 3:08 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I'm also an "Ambassador of Cool" not because I'm fabulously sensitive, but because I'm the most direct person anyone has ever met. Seems more Brit issue than Western US.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:08 PM on May 17


earnielundquist, when I favorited your remark it was not as I usually do, which is to replicate the Faceboook "like", but rather in the most literal sense of the word "favorite". I'm not sure why what you wrote resonated with me so.
posted by jwhite1979 at 3:45 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I'd be very interested to hear more from people about talking to people in wheelchairs. I have a friend who uses a wheelchair and is also partially deaf. I've usually conversed with her by kneeling down so that we're both at eye level because it's very difficult for her to hear what I'm saying while I'm standing, and it seems that she can also read my lips better if I'm closer.

I had no indication this was potentially a rude thing to do, and I'd love to adjust this behaviour if in fact I'm being dense about this.
posted by odinsdream at 6:24 PM on May 17


This is the best disability awkwardness moment of all time. Of all time!

OMG....I look at the disembodied hand on his side and can only imagine a frantic aide thinking/stage whispering through a stricken, tight-lipped fake-smile, "Dennis, no! Move along! No! Down!"
posted by blue suede stockings at 8:16 PM on May 17


It seems like the goal of the campaign is to reduce awkwardness, but the ads are like "oh no, super awkward situation approaching! What will s/he do? Oh good - s/he made the right choice, thank God!" I didn't actually realize the stakes were that high. Maybe I should be MORE socially terrified next time.

I know they can't be like "hey it's cool to be an insensitive jerk," but if the real goal is to reduce the awkwardness, it might also help to show people recovering from a mistake. I'm sure people without right hands relatively often have other people extend their own right to shake and then have to switch midstream. It might be nice to have a little "hey it's no big deal if that happens" and a little less "HIGH STAKES SPLIT SECOND DECISION."

Anyway, apologies for playing the "what about MY feelings?" privileged person role today. I actually don't mean to argue that the real issue should be helping the person talking to the disabled person feel comfortable. I say that only because it seems like that's part of the goal here, so it's notable that the framing might be counterproductive. But maybe it isn't part of the goal? Come to think of it, maybe "end the awkward" isn't "hey no need to feel awkward" as much as it is "don't act awkward and don't do awkward things." In any case, I found the whole thing interesting and educational. Thanks for posting it.
posted by salvia at 8:45 PM on May 17


I got Ambassador of Cool, but I think they might be wrong.

I once slammed a wheelchair user in a door.

I was walking through central Frankfurt and being stopped every couple of blocks by random beggars asking for money and people with clipboards who "just want to ask a question" but it turns out to be some sort of scam where they steal all your money.

I get to a department store and start to enter, and someone just out of my line of sight to the left says, "Excuse me, can I ask you..." and I growled "NO" and pushed the door shut violently behind me. It was some dude in a wheelchair who had (I think) been about to ask me to hold the door open for him. He kind of got sandwiched in it.

More like Ambassador of Oh My God I Can't Believe I Just Did That.
posted by lollusc at 3:02 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


I had no indication this was potentially a rude thing to do,

If your friend hasn't said anything about it to you, it probably isn't for her at least, but you could always ask?
posted by MartinWisse at 3:39 AM on May 18


odinsdream, another lip-reading chair user here. While I definitely prefer to speak eye-to-eye, I wince when someone is half-bent down or kneeling, because it looks excruciating. Grab a chair, or move to where you can sit on a table. Most importantly, my preference is only mine. Ask! Would it work better for you if I sat down? There are some chairs down the hall?

salvia, good point re: how to gracefully recover from a mistake. A calm Whoops, I misunderstood or Seems like I assumed wrong followed by What would work well for you? is a safe bet.

Ask, don't assume. But ask for the info you really need: can you use the terminal at a desk this high? not What happened to your legs?

Finally, in American Sign Language, the "rude" waving a hand in someone's face communicates a casual, but not aggressive, Hey! Don't know about British Sign Language (not mutually intelligible) and definitely not part of US hearing culture. But when you work with ASL users, you learn to sign "Hey!"
posted by Jesse the K at 8:01 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


I'm in a wheelchair, though it's an electric one, and it seems like there's always some kind person around who offers to hold the door for me when I need it. I'm amazed at how many nice people there are and how quickly they jump to help - and their age or clothing or weight has nothing to do with it. I have absolutely no objection to someone touching my shoulder or upper arm - I've had folks squeeze my shoulder or pat it, always with a smile and kindness, and that's what matters, I think - what was the motivation behind the touch? Can I really get twitchy about someone who's just being kind and helpful? No, I can't.

Now, if someone pats me on the head they better look out (lol) - and if a politician actually kissed me I'd probably ... just sit there, speechless, at something so out of place ... and then wish later I'd said a whole bunch of things. But again, the politician has a motivation that's outside that of human kindness.

I had a man take my hand when I was trying to pay for a cold drink one day - he asked if he could pray for me. I just sighed and said of course, because it made him feel better. No great loss of my precious time and it made his day.

But that's just me - I understand, to some degree, the invasion of a person's space thing, but if I have to try to figure out that you're hard of hearing so I need to get myself into a position where you can see me in a crowded bar if I intend to speak to you, rather than to tap you on the upper arm to get your attention, then I'd probably blow it. How is a person supposed to know you're hard of hearing, anyway?

I think we're too sensitive to things like this sometimes; I've found that adaptation to my frailties as they progress with aging and disability is the key to being happy - changing my own expectations eliminates the bitterness that can take over when I expect others to read my mind and adjust to my needs. At least, that's what works best for me.
posted by aryma at 10:37 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting the link to my blog, Soliloquy! I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw over 250 hits on a single day.

I'm also happy to report that, eleven years on, the Kucinich-related night terrors have mostly subsided. Mostly.
posted by wintermute2_0 at 3:16 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]


This is ace.
posted by lokta at 8:20 AM on May 21


« Older K. Mike Merrill at BigThink has some ideas on how ...  |  Amparo "Amparin" Serrano turne... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments