Discover your Listening Villain
Apple Award Winning Podcast
006 Jodee Mundy Creative Director explains what the deaf community can teach the non deaf community about listening and exploring why the deaf community are the best listeners

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My guest today is Jodee Mundy an independent Creative Producer and Artistic Director. Jodee’s work points to a future beyond inclusion where the diversity is as valuable as the art. She also grew up as the only hearing person in a deaf family.

Jodee knew her family was deaf, but she didn’t realize that they couldn’t hear until an incident when she got lost in a local store. Jodee brings a unique perspective about what the deaf community can teach the non-deaf community about listening. We also explore why the deaf community are actually better listeners.

Today’s Topics:

  • Jodee was born into a deaf family. She is the only one who can hear.
  • Jodee didn’t realize her family was deaf until she got lost in Kmart as a child.
  • She grew up in the culture of signing and lights flashing.
  • Becoming an interpreter and blending into the environment.
  • Adding, subtracting, and substituting information in Auslan.
  • Interpreting for the Dalai Lama.
  • Listening with your whole mind and body.
  • How the deaf community is completely welcoming to everyone who can sign.
  • How deaf people are great at charades, and they are not defined by language.
  • The power of silence and speaking with our eyes.
  • The extraordinary capacity of humans to communicate.

Transcript

Episode 06: Deep Listening with Jodee Mundy 

Oscar Trimboli: 

Deep listening, impact beyond words.

Jodee Mundy: 

When you know you talk to a blind friend or deaf friends, the worlds that they live in is so much expertise and knowledge on how to navigate the world. Whether that’s through Haptic or signing, and it’s such a shame because there’s so much knowledge that people who see and hear could use to actually be better listeners.

Oscar Trimboli: 

Deep listening, how to have an impact beyond words. In this episode, I have the opportunity to work with a cultural bridge. With Jodee who works, creates beautiful spaces between people who can listen, and those people who are deaf. The culture of listening in the deaf community is something we can all learn from, and I’m delighted to invite Jodee into our space today to talk about that and many other things.

Hi Jodee!

Jodee Mundy: 

Hi, thanks for having me.

Oscar Trimboli: 

It’s a pleasure. We always begin at the beginning, and we’d love to hear the story of where your life began.

Jodee Mundy: 

Yeah, sure. So, I was born in 1978 in Melbourne, and born to a family where everyone is deaf. So, my mom, and my dad, and my two brothers are deaf, and I’m the youngest. So, we grew up using Auslan, Australian signing we do at home. But I’m the only one in the family that can hear. But I didn’t know that they were deaf until I got lost in K-Mart at about five years old.

So, I was looking at the Barbie dolls, and my mom said come on let’s go, and suddenly I looked up and she was gone. So, I ran to the front desk and I said, “Excuse me, I’ve lost my mum.” And the lady leaned into the microphone and she said, “Jillian Mundy your daughter is waiting, your daughter Jodee is waiting for you.” And I sat on the bench, and I waited, and I waited. Then suddenly I saw mum coming through the clothes racks passing the red-light special. And she was signing at me, “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you?” And I said, “The lady has made an announcement.” And my mum she looked at me and signed, “I’m deaf, you know that.” And I looked at her, and it just dawned on me that my whole family was deaf, and I wasn’t.

Now the thing is, is that, I knew that they were deaf, but I didn’t know it meant that they could not hear. There two very different things for me. For me, the deaf community, the community and culture that I grew up in is the culture of signing, the culture of eye contact. The culture of lights flashing when the phone rings, or you know banging on the table to get someone’s attention. That to me is my culture. To not hear is something else. Deaf people perceive in our society the disability. They can’t do things, they wear hearing aids. All of the deficit, the disability model is not where I come from.

So, when I grew up… as you know growing up for me I was the interpreter for the family, and culture broker.

Oscar Trimboli: 

I’m curious as you play the role of interpreter, how do you actually prepare yourself for the moment when you translate?

Jodee Mundy:

Okay so, I have trained as an interpreter. I have been an interpreter for 20 years.

Oscar Trimboli: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jodee Mundy: 

Semi-retired now, cause I work in another field. I’ve interpreted for many, many different settings. So, you can, one day you’re in a courtroom. The next you’re in a medical setting, you’re at a funeral, you’re interpreting for Julia Gillard, the Dalai Llama, Noam Chomsky, BBC News. So, I’ve worked on quite a broad area of interpreting. And it could be you telling someone that they only have a week to live, to you’re on a stage doing the Lion King. So, it’s the kind of job where you have to blend in to your environment.

Now the thing is, when you’re interpreting, you’re working from a source message. So, you have your source message, and you have to change that from the first language into the target language. So, it could be I’m listening in English, a message that then has to go to Auslan, and then you have to watch the Auslan to change it back into English.

Oscar Trimboli:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jodee Mundy: 

Now there’s a few techniques, when you get a message you can; add to that message, you can subtract information from that message, you can substitute information, or you can omit information.

Oscar Trimboli: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jodee Mundy: 

While you’re delivering that, you’re listening to the next one coming in. Because it’s a three-dimensional language, it’s not linear. So, when we speak it’s word by word. You utter sounds to make sense. Whereas in sign, you use your face and to articulate it to your hands. So, you’re continually creating… it’s like an incredibly dense comic strip where you can use aerial perspective, long shots, close-ups, in terms of telling a story. And then you can convey multiple ideas at the same time.

Oscar Trimboli: 

Yeah.

Jodee Mundy: 

And there’s so many other factors. Like when I interpreted for the Dalai Llama on stage, he’s got quite a strong accent so you also have to concentrate to cut through your own challenges. Like you just have to keep listening to try and understand what he’s saying for example. With someone like the Dalai Llama who is an extraordinary man, you want to do him justice. So, you have to listen with every pore of your body to get that information across to somebody else.

Oscar Trimboli: 

During those extended periods of time of listening, and sometimes you get distracted. How do you keep yourself on track during that process?

Jodee Mundy:

I think I take a lot of deep breaths. You just breathe, and do the best you can. In a way, you become more like a vessel I suppose, rather than just listening through your ear and your mind. It’s like, how do you as a whole being… cause you can listen through your ears, but it’s also with your heart. From behind, from you know around your back. You know, our bodies don’t just end at our fingertips, there’s a whole space around us, and we are all connected. So, you just have to drop into that, I think. Yeah, get out of your own way. Yeah, and breathe.

Oscar Trimboli: 

Yeah. In Chinese traditions ting means to listen, and it’s drawn as a six-dimensional character set. Hearing, and seeing are only two dimensions of the six, and respect, and focus, and using your heart are other elements of that. Which you role modelled so beautifully when talking to how you have to be totally present with your entire body. I’m curious if you’re signing in a group of the deaf community, and others that can hear, what do you think deaf people do better than others when it comes to socialising the process of listening?

Jodee Mundy: 

So, when you go to a party and everyone signs, you can see what everyone is saying. So, it’s not like when you go to a party where, let’s call it the hearing world. And you go to a party where everyone hears, people are in groups, huddled. I find that people can be quite exclusive. Like even though I make friends easily, you know, if you don’t know that many people it takes awhile until someone might introduce you. There are of course great parties if the host is fantastic, they will introduce you. But generally, I find you kind of have to go, “Hi.” And it’s a bit awkward, and you kind of go, “What do you do?” And you know with the deaf community it’s not like that at all. Because I guess it’s a community and a minority. But if you don’t know people the fact that you sign and you come in. If there’s a circle you come in and go, “Hey,” and you just sign. People will straight away open up, and go, “Hi, what’s your name.” And you go around, and everyone just introduces themselves and then we’re actually talking about this.

Oscar Trimboli:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jodee Mundy: 

Everyone is included at all times. Now another thing is, if you’re signing and you look away you’re not listening. Cause you can’t see what that person’s saying to you. Whereas people who hear will look around the room, they’ll chat. And something I find really fascinating is that when people who hear have an argument, let’s say, and when deaf people have an argument or people who sign. When you sign in an argument it’s a different thing. When deaf people argue or when people who sign argue, you look away. You don’t want to look at that person. Whereas people who hear, when they argue will probably look at each other more in the eye than they ever do. So, I find it interesting there’s actually opposites in the languages of speaking and signing, and how you connect whether it’s just a chat or standing in a social situation or there’s a conflict. There’s different levels of intensity.

Oscar Trimboli: 

Is there anything else you think the deaf community can teach us?

Jodee Mundy: 

I think yes, whenever… You know like I said when my parents are travelling or if I travel, I don’t worry about using English. And you know I try to speak some of the local language wherever I am. But, there’s so much you can communicate just with your body. Deaf people are great at Charades, just saying. I would smash you at Charades. A much bigger thing to share is the deaf community is transnational community. It’s not a community defined by borders or geography. The language comes from being able to see and being visual. So, wherever you go around the world, wherever you meet deaf people. Even though the sign languages are different, the sign language isn’t international. They’re different in every country but the grammar is the same.

Now that’s in a language aspect. If I’m just hanging out with people or deaf people are hanging out with people who hear, and we can read body language really, really well. We’re able to, even when someone’s talking to me and they’re like, “Oh, what’s that word? I can’t remember that word.” You can see with their hands, pretty much you can go, you can work out something that they’re saying. Cause people who speak but don’t sign, naturally gesture. Like you will gesture and sometimes your hands will say what you can’t in that moment. So yeah, deaf people are very acute to being able to pick up what people are trying to say.

Oscar Trimboli: 

So, thinking about the body language example you provided, for those you can hear, what tips would you give them to listen beyond the words?

Jodee Mundy:

I think remember the power of your eyes, your eyes can really speak so much. The power of silence is your best friend. I think people speak a lot, like what they say isn’t just everything. I think giving people the space in silence is allowing people to open up more, and not feel like you have to talk all the time. Knowing what you can do with your hands can say a lot as well. Especially in public speaking as we know the power of hands and gestures. A big thing, also you know, we say that we have the five senses, or the six that you said, the ting that you mentioned, which is a beautiful thing. I would argue that it’s not that we have five senses. I would say that we all have one sense, but these are our windows. And we’re all connected, and yes, we’re all different in the way we see, or hear, or taste, or smell, or our cultures, or how we’re fluid in sexuality, or gender, you know. We’re all so different in our makeup but we’re generally all one big sense connected to our universe.

Now for me, my other job is I’m a creative director, so I create large scale shows, and rituals with people of all different sort of backgrounds. I just had a big show at Sydney festival where, it was called Imagined Touch, and the two performers were deaf and blind. So, they don’t see or hear, and this whole work is about entering into space, and seeing them perform. Their names are Heather Lawson, and Michelle Stevens. And audiences are given headsets and goggles, and go into an immersive space where their eyesight and hearing starts to deteriorate. It’s not a simulation, it’s a metaphor. And Heather and Michelle take the audience members on a tactile communication experience, so they talk to you through touch.

All of those things that the eyes use to judge or scan people disappear, and you’re essentially listening through touch.

Oscar Trimboli: 

What do you think those audience members take away in terms of understanding listening on a different level?

Jodee Mundy: 

It’s about the elimination of other worlds humans live in. The depth of who we are as humans and our extraordinary capacity to communicate. It’s not just disability but it’s actually our capacity as humans, and there’s so much expertise that’s untapped. When, you know, you talk to blind friends or deaf friends, the worlds that the live in is so much expertise and knowledge on how to navigate the world. Whether that’s through Haptic or signing and it’s such a shame because there’s so much knowledge that people who see and hear could use to actually be better listeners.

Oscar Trimboli: 

We’ll just change speed now. Most people ask you to listen, but what they crave is to be heard. When have you noticed a time where you’ve been heard, or you’ll have heard somebody and they feel noticed and seen?

Jodee Mundy: 

Look, you know I got my nails done yesterday, what I hate is when you get your nails done it’s often in these nail bars. And often all the women are from Vietnam, okay. And they come to Australia for two years to learn English, and then they go back. So, every time I go to a nail bar, I see these women, and every woman that I’ve sat with has been too shy to talk because they feel their English isn’t good enough.

And so, last night, I was sitting there, and she was doing my nails, and she hadn’t said her name, and I hadn’t said my name. It’s not usual practise to introduce yourself. But, I usually sit down and go, “Hi! What’s your name?” Cause you know this woman’s holding my hand. It’s like, and again it’s that thing of like touch. It’s like well what’s your name, this is my name and we chat, and she’ll go back to doing my nails. I’ll just say, “So how was your day?” And she’ll tell me, “Oh, it was okay.” But I can, I saw that she was quite awkward and not wanting to talk because she was embarrassed.

So, for me, I just keep talking cause you know, she’s doing my nails. I don’t want to just sit there and ignore her, like all those people do. So, we got chatting and she was telling me where she was from. She was near Hanoi, and I asked her about, you know, I told her I thought I heard there was really beautiful things. Where do you live, I live near St Kilda I live here. And look, it was a very simple conversation.

But she said to me, “You know not many customers talk to me, and I wished they did because my English would probably be better.” I was like, “Well why don’t you talk?” And she’s like, “Well I’m too embarrassed to tell people, my English isn’t very good.” And it’s like, yeah but honey you’re holding this woman’s hand. You’re doing their nails. You’ve got every right to chat. You know don’t be shy, it’s a random example but for me in those moments when you are sitting with someone. Whether it’s a taxi driver, or those moments that are quite intimate, and were so attuned to shutting down or switching off or looking at our phone. I tend to, if I see that person wanting to connect, but maybe not too confident then I go out of my way to make that connection and for them to be seen. Because in the end she was really like, “Thank you, I had a really nice chat with you. I’m gonna do it again. I’m gonna make sure I’m gonna be more confident.” It’s like yeah you can do it sister, you know, it’s all good.

Oscar Trimboli:

Jodee I can see why you’re an extraordinary bridge builder between cultures, between capabilities, and I can see that there’s a common purpose driving all your conversations, that we’re all connected. And it’s great to listen to that meaning come out in the patterns and the context of our conversation today. And I would say thank you, Namaste. The extraordinary capability that you have both as a translator, but also an educator is making a difference, and making an impact beyond words. Thank you.

Jodee Mundy: 

Thank you, and I just owe that to my family. So again, it all goes back to the community I come from. So yeah, thank you.

Oscar Trimboli: 

I hope you felt the same energy I did coming through the headphones with Jodie. Such passion, such poise, such an ability to communicate the power of Auslan as a three-dimensional language. And how it augments listening, and is a skill that those of us who can hear, would be better off by learning a few simple examples of how to sign.

The biggest thing that I took away from the conversation was how to look at body language, and how facing somebody straight on with no distractions, no laptops, no mobile phones, no barriers in between you. Is by far the most powerful way to create a deep listening dialogue with those you’re interacting with. What commitment will you make to avoid distractions, and face the person that you are speaking to so you can listen more deeply.

I’d love you to take a challenge for the next week, so that when you walk into a dialogue with somebody there’s no laptop, and there’s no mobile phone present. Give it a try. Guaranteed it will transform your listening to become more impactful.

Oscar Trimboli: 

Deep listening, Impact beyond words.

 

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