What if we did things ‘The Voice’ way?
BBC’s ‘The Voice UK’ has been giving Simon Cowell a run for his vast amounts of money in the Saturday night TV ratings war.
‘The Voice’ is a singing contest but it differs from the format we are so familiar with seeing on this prime time slot. In the initial stages the coaches sit with their backs turned to the performers and if they like what they hear they press a button and their chair spins around, so they can see the performer. This signifies they are interested in coaching the singer.
The idea behind this is that the coaches judge the contestants purely on their voice and not on their looks, personality, stage presence or dance moves.
There is no opportunity for the coaches to get distracted by external issues or discriminate. This got me wondering how this concept would work in other walks of life?
What would happen to the employment rates of blind and partially sighted people if their interviews were conducted by interviewers with their backs turned and their fingers on the swivel button? I suspect a greater number would receive job offers.
Interestingly, when the blind audition bit on the show was over the coaches were accused of being ageist in the decisions they made when choosing who to select.
I think many of the blind and partially sighted job seekers I work with would be right up for interviews with swivel chairs. They feel they are often unfairly judged and this would provide an equal playing field.
This ‘The Voice’ style of interviewing would remove real or perceived judgements influenced by prejudice or misconceptions.
The reality is we do live in a very visual world. Research tells us that by far the greatest ways in which we form first impressions are visual. They are appearance, followed by non-verbal communications. Non-verbal communications include body language such as; facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and posture.
This mainstream research did not take sight loss into consideration. Appearance and body language will not be the majority way in which visually impaired people form first impressions. In fact, blind people reading this are probably laughing at the novelty of The voice’s ‘blind auditions’ as this is their real life without the swivel chair!
So, while blind and partially sighted people may not make impressions based on visuals, I believe it is worth noting that most people do. If we go back to the interview scenario, it is important that all of us look the part and are aware of our body language.
The body language barrier
It is also known that, if there is conflict between the words you say and your body language, your body language will be believed. Reading body language is a real barrier for most blind and partially sighted people. One which I think many overcome by being attentive listeners and good at reading voices.
I accept that being aware of our own body language, as blind and partially sighted people, is harder but I do think it is possible. I know this as I have coached and offered guidance to job seekers with a whole range of sight loss who have vastly improved how they communicate non-verbally. Truth is, many sighted people are unaware of how their body language may be better used to communicate to others. They too would benefit from getting a second opinion and becoming mindful of how to communicate non-verbally to greater effect.
The other two, far smaller, ways in which we form a first impression are the way we say what we say and the words we use. This includes the rate, pitch, tone and volume we speak at.
Many blind people I speak with feel that the visual stuff can be distracting and that without this distraction they are naturally non-judgemental. They don’t see this as a disadvantage they feel it is a better way. I feel sure it is a better way; BBC audiences seem to feel it is a better way but sadly it is not the widespread way.
Danny, one of the coaches on ‘The Voice UK’ has been quoted as saying he wants to be judged on his music and his voice but also says image is important. I have had many heated debates with blind and partially sighted people about the importance of image, but I am with Danny on this one. I am partially sighted and I want to be judged on my abilities to undertake a role, to deliver a project or to be worthy of spending time with first and foremost. However, I believe image does matter. When you accept this, begrudgingly or otherwise, you can use your image to your advantage. It is a tough world we live in and if I can use my image to show I care about what I do and I am positive in my approach to undertaking it then I will. What I have found when putting this stuff into practise is that not only does it have a positive effect on how I am perceived, but it has a positive effect on how I feel.