Skip to main content

How do you react when someone tells you that they have a disability? How do they react if you’re the one telling them that you live with a disability? Are you even aware of your reaction and how your perception of the other person changes?

It is all too easy to react to other people, without really being aware of why you’re reacting that way. Being emotionally intelligent – or more aware – can help you to understand what is called your unconscious bias and therefore develop better relationships with other people, helping you in both business and in life. Want to find out how you can do this? Then read on!

If a work colleague or friend had an invisible disability, do you think you would know or guess? Would your attitude towards that person change if they told you about the disability?

Are you the one with an invisible disability? Do you struggle to reveal it to friends and family for fear of being judged or treated differently by other people?

Whether we like or not, most of us have bias towards other people (good or bad) that we act on unconsciously. These biases are influenced by our experiences, family, culture, education and environment. It is usually when we are outside of our ‘comfort zone’ that these biases are triggered.

We very rarely give any thought to our own biases, but becoming emotionally intelligent can change this. Emotional intelligence can be taught very successfully: you can learn how to become aware of the bias, recognise its potential negative (or positive) effects, and take steps to counteract it if need be. For example, when a colleague or friend confides in you about their disability, can you guarantee that your behaviour won’t change as a result? Perhaps in a negative way? Becoming emotionally intelligent means you can avoid this. As a result, you can remove any barriers to personal or professional relationships and promote inclusion and belonging.

There might only be a subtle change in your perception of another person, when you find out that they have a disability. What’s important is that you learn to measure the impact – how does your perception change when someone tells you something about themselves that you weren’t expecting? You need to learn to recognise your response and your reaction – is it a good thing or a bad thing? Does it need to be changed?

When I tell people my story, if someone responds to me with pity, I have learnt to recognise that and I move on, as I don’t want pity. If they respond with a reaction such as disgust or fear, I have learnt to recognise those too and can talk to them about why they have reacted that way. Being more aware of your reactions makes it much easier to talk to someone with a disability. If you have a disability, when you can learn to read reactions from other people, you’ll find them much easier to handle.

#Tip: When you can develop your self-awareness and take control of your reactions you can build better relationships.

If you have a disability, sharing your story is a personal decision and there is no ‘one-size fits all’ advice, especially if the disability has stigma attached to it. It takes courage to be open, but the greatest connection you can have with others is to show your own vulnerabilities, and allow them to share theirs. The key is to choose someone you feel you can trust and that can give you the space and understanding to hear you without judgement. Confiding in another can help you feel less alone and can provide you with the support you need.

#Tip: Think about why you are sharing your disability and what you hope to gain from it. Remember that you can’t be in control of how other people respond.

A well-known charity has asked me to present a one-day workshop in disability confidence. This training helps managers become more confident in interacting with their disabled staff or customers, without their unconscious biases getting in the way. It helps to ensure that disabled employees have their specific needs met. Click here to find out how this kind of training workshop can help your business, click here to email me or call me on 07752 518 925.

Leave a Reply