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Why don't they call THAT disability??

Updated: Jan 12

Having a disability gives you a valuable perspective on the world. It can make you more empathetic, more accepting, more all-around wonderful …

But it's no sure thing. Having a disability can also amp up your snark levels. You know, the amount of irreverent, possibly snide, maybe even sarcastic feelings you may have at any given time.

Along with other conditions, I suffer from this.

My snark levels are especially high when in the company of people who become wildly upset about the failure of things to go as they had planned, lashing out at anyone handy who can bear the blame. Some resort to screaming, others issue cruel ultimatums via barely decipherable words from behind clenched teeth.

When this happens regularly, especially among people in power, I have to ask: Why don't they call THAT disability?

Most bad behavior emanates from some weakness, almost always fear: bosses worried about sales and profitability; managers concerned about looking weak among their peers; workers overly sensitive to criticism. We tend to overlook these conditions; we excuse them as necessary to getting the job done.

But they really are disabling, even though we don't define them as such.

Then there are the disabilities we can look up and list, which make us think we know what disability is. We assume that when someone can't walk, or talks funny, or takes a while to understand and formulate sentences, that's a problem, that's a disability. And it's not a good thing.

I'm watching Pennsylvania candidate for U.S. Senate John Fetterman as he uses closed captioning to assist with auditory processing in interviews following a stroke. His answers are one beat slower because he has to read the questions on the screen, but they're complete and on point.

I try to blow up the idea that differences in speaking and cognition speed are bad, in my book presentations. I put it right out there: I know it's hard listening to me talk. It's not easy being you. But I make sure listening to me is worth your time. What a concept, right?!

I also know that listeners' tolerance may ebb before my talk ends. So I prepare them: My speech is not going to get any better throughout this presentation. In fact, it may get worse, as I tire.

So that's the situation. And I think people are genuinely surprised when they come away from one of my talks with something they value. It's like, OK, maybe you don't have to be a perfect specimen – maybe you don't have to speak in melodious tones – to impart important information.

But it's tricky because listeners must be able to hear that amid the background noise of a culture that says otherwise. Challenge on!


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