Top 4 Ways Interacting with the Disabled is Helping You Grow
It is not uncommon to have interacting with the disabled cause a sense of unease and uncertainty; out of empathy and good manners, people try to give their best not to additionally hurt anyone with a physical, intellectual or a sensory disability but, unfortunately, most of them end up being patronizing and condescending. This often happens due to their lack of knowledge on how to talk with a disabled person without hurting their feelings or coming across as superior. Normally, it’s is advised for socializing with the disabled not to be any different from other social interactions. However, for those who aren’t familiar with a particular disability, this doesn’t always go as planned.
Our team of trained counselors has worked with the disabled for a number of years and – in interacting with the patients as well as with their friends and family – we have witnessed people close to them break down emotionally, hopeless and desperate because they don’t know how to act around those they love. On the other hand, we’ve also seen many families grow from very uncomfortable interactions to building healthy, beautiful relationships thanks to being open to personal growth, adaptation to the circumstance and – ultimately – change.
In that manner, we’re laying out the four ways people happen to grow in interacting with the disabled hoping you’ll find the strength in yourself to do the same:
You Become Compassionate and Understanding
In communicating and interacting with a disabled person, you need to understand their disability first before “making your move”. If you are talking to someone with a mental/sensory/intellectual ability be patient enough to let them finish a sentence, even if it lasts longer than anticipated. Let the patient talk at their own pace, without sending a body signal (rolling your eyes, sighing, getting angry, etc) or a verbal one (i.e. hurrying them up or finishing their sentences) that they need to talk/move/act faster. Asking about their disability is okay, as long as you are respectful of it. Don’t ever joke about it. Also, if you cannot understand the person you are talking to, ask them to say the thing again or consult with someone close to them to help you understand. Always double-check what you think you heard. Don’t yell or curse at them, or spank them because you are eager for them to speed things up. Any form of physical or emotional abuse is out of the question! Understand that the disabled aren’t doing things to spite you. It’s who they are and you need to adjust to them. If things were the other way around – they’d do the same for you.
In communicating with the disabled, you’ll start developing an attitude of understanding and compassion, and in term – help yourself become a better person, and a respectful one.
You Learn Patience
In the world of today, everything’s hectic – from the way we eat breakfast to the way we date and close business deals. And, for the most part, that works fine. However, for the disabled – the pace we’ve adopted is impossible. Not because they don’t want to honor it but because they can’t.
In communicating with a disabled person, whether they’ve got a physical or mental disability, time is crucial. Although it will take you time to adjust to THEIR pace (instead of forcing them to adapt to yours) you’ll finally become comfortable with it. Not everything has to be done NOW – and the people who CAN’T do things NOW are the best to learn from.
You Tame Your Own Ego
By nature and instinct, humans are selfish and self-centered: if things aren’t about your comfort, your pleasures and your end-goal whose are they about? Unless taught otherwise, such behavior may work for you but it’ll never work for the community you are a part of, especially if there is a disabled person around.
For everyone’s who’s had a person in their family and friends circle suffer from a disability, things have drastically changed from “me” to “you”. Naturally, the fact a disabled person is a part of your life doesn’t mean putting yourself second at all times; it only means adapting to the circumstance, putting yourself in the disabled’s shoes for a second and growing to understand what they may be feeling like. We’ve seen patients grow closer, more honest and lovely with their family and friends after having suffered a disability, but only when both sides were willing to cooperate.
Keep being a priority to yourself but try not to be egoistic about it. If you are helping a disabled person, help because you want to. Don’t ever downplay their disabilities or constantly remind them that you are helping. Instead of saying “See what I’m doing for you!” or “You are so lucky to have me as your friend/spouse/etc” say something more compassionate like “I am so happy we’re doing this together and that I can help”. The person you are helping KNOWS you are helping and they’re grateful. It’s just your ego that needs a positive affirmation of your “good deed”, isn’t it?
You Learn to See the Bigger Picture
Not all disabilities are visible, and you’ll learn that in time. One of the most common things that happens is people getting angry with someone parking in a handicapped spot while looking able-bodied. The next thing they’d do is confront them only to learn that the person did actually have a disability, although not one many could see. Sometimes called “invisible disabilities,” these disabilities are still problematic for the people living with them. The best attitude to adopt is to be kind, compassionate and considerate in communication with everyone. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand where they are coming from. Someone who needed a cane yesterday may need a wheelchair today. That doesn’t mean they are faking: there are good days and bad days and, as someone who doesn’t need neither a cane nor a wheelchair, you need to learn to understand these things. Not only will your mild temper read better and more compassionate with the disabled person, but you’ll also grow as a person yourself and develop a higher sense of self and people around you.
Until our next blog post: stay compassionate.