Tag Archives: friendship

I try to be friendly, but Disability repulses others

Each of us need friendships in order to thrive. Yet many people are repulsed by Disability. So how can we be friendly?

Every time we meet someone new, we naturally look for commonality and differences. We monitor others for opportunities for connection or threat. Gestures we view as friendly toward us are potential opportunities for connection. The gestures that trigger our fears we interpret as threats.

Disabilities can remind others of things they fear. We all fear death and spend a lifetime avoiding it. Disability often precedes death in life. Thus when we sense a disability we protect ourselves by responding in a fearful way.

When we see attractive people we view what attracts us as what we seek to become. Those things are the best we see in ourselves. This reminds us of our potential and not what we lost. We do not fear this, but are overjoyed by our awareness of our new possibilities.

Disability is an imperfection that is not hidden from us. Does anyone function constantly at their ideal level? Not even super Stars can avoid a bad day. Yet for those of us who struggle with a disability anytime we need to function in a – disabled – way it would be a bad day.

So how can those of us who battle constantly with a disability be friendly and not feel like frauds?

Studies seeking to explain friendships have found that relationships form among those who have contact with others, find familiarity in the connection, and find those connections to be positive.

So hiding in a cave or corner will not help you make contact and develop friendships.

Next, if your contact with another is unpleasant for them, they will seek to avoid future contact with you and thus friendship. How can we make our contacts with others enjoyable for both of us?

First, we need to keep Disability out of our relationships as best we can. For me, it would mean removing the cap that shades my eyes and protects my head. What obvious signs of Disability do others see when they look at you?

Second, we need to foster opportunities for connection. It can be useful to connect in different ways. Are you attuned to what others are seeking in friendship?

There is a concept in neurology called, “mirror neurons.” The neurons in our brains will “mirror” patterns similar to the neurons of the people we meet. Thus when we are around happy people we feel happy, around sad people we feel sad, and when we are with those who are afraid we feel fear. .

If it is true that Disabilities engender fear then we have created a barrier to friendship even before we first speak or smile. This makes it harder to leave a personal encounter feeling positive. Our anxiety that the encounter will end poorly will reinforce our fears.

What fears get triggered when we meat others?

We all fear rejection. We all want to “reject” Disability. If we see ourselves as disabled then we are rejecting a critical aspect of our lives and thus living in fear.

In what ways has Disability been good to you? Does it give you a reason to shed other things that were not good for you? Does Disability give you new opportunities? Can you see Disability as a gift that you can enjoy? Recall these positive aspects of Disability when it enters your thoughts.

Next, let’s try to connect what we are encountering with what we have experienced. When I was growing up I could never get a word out when trying to talk to popular and pretty girls. Over time I came to view pretty women as sources of rejection and danger to my self-esteem. Could this be why we have so many jokes about “dumb” blonds?

Since we know that all of us are sending out signals of our mood how can we send out positive ones?

Looking someone in the eye and Offering them a warm smile or shaking hands are all ways we signal that we are open to others. These are physical signals. What emotional signals are we also sending?

Most of the time our mental chatter goes all over the place. Both our mental chatter and the emotional chatter our mirror neurons pick up from others sets our mood. The good news is we can control this.

If we look for the positive and unthreatening in others, our minds will begin to chatter about those things instead. When you ask yourself, “what do I like about this person?” Your brain usually comes up with something positive.

If we share our positive feelings with those we meet, they will follow our lead and their minds will become happier.

We all want to be accepted. The smile and handshake helped to meet this need.

If we complement others on their appearance they will feel appreciated. Additionally, they will hear that you see them as attractive.

Also, they are seeking to find others with whom they have common experiences and expectations. This is why most initial conversations begin on topics such as places visited or activities. Most of us have visited or know others who live where the strangers we are speaking to have been.

People also seek to find commonality in social status and life styles. The way we dress and our mannerisms communicate these. While clothes may not make the man, they do project the man. So choose what you wear by giving some thought to what others might also be wearing. If you arrive being the only one dressed in a suit you have just set yourself apart from others.

So, in summary, if you want to be friendly (and thrive)

  • Make your disability as small as possible and only part of what others see about you.
  • Greet others openly and warmly.
  • Seek to find something attractive about them and let them know it.
  • Explore the new relationship for common experiences.
  • Finally, enjoy the new people you met and the company they offer you.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Are you really connected to your Friends?

Connecting to others is an important source of our wellbeing. Those connections get us thru the tough times and bring us joy and laughter in the good times. Yet it often is the tough times that show us that we lack friends.

Do you really have friends?

If you’re not sure ask yourself these questions?

  • How many people do I look forward to meeting?
  • If I was injured in an accident, who besides family could I turn to?
  • If they were injured in an accident who would turn to me?

Studies say that most Americans find these tough questions to ask and even tougher to answer. Yet, those who thrive in this world don’t have trouble with them. Friendships are one of the very important things to help us thrive.

No matter who you are or where you are you can make friends. I saw this among people who found themselves living in nursing homes and elsewhere.

Years ago as I made rounds each evening, seeing the number of friends around a dyeing man’s bed convinced me that gay men might have something from which the rest of us would benefit. This man was dying of AIDS in the 1980’s. In those days we did not have drugs to stop or reverse the AIDS virus. I could only make him comfortable and treat his secondary infections. Yet, every evening when I stopped by his room there was a half dozen men visiting him. I had never seen this with other patients. So many people willing to take the time to be with a friend.

So, what is a good friend? A friend is not just someone you can turn to in crises. Friends will make you laugh and grow. You are free to be yourself with a friend. Yes, you may differ on some issues, but you appreciate them in spite of that.

If you want better friendships you will need to create them. So here are some ways to get started:

  1. Imagine what you’re ideal relationships with friends, family, lovers, peers and others would look like. Do they support you? Do they encourage you to grow by supporting and offering new experiences?
  2. Review the relationships you have with “friends” now:
    1. Do they meet your ideal?
    2. Could that relationship be nourished to meet your ideal?
    3. Would the other person be receptive to deepening your relationship?
  3. Who else would you like to get to know?
  4. Now find ways to spend time with these people and enjoy getting to know them better. Friends enjoy doing things together and sharing their dreams and trials. Yes, there might be times when you know it would hurt them to say what is on your mind.
  5. Look for the positive in these relationships. Partners in marriages that thrive tend to say 5 positive things for each negative one. This is good advice with all those we meet. Too often we are seeking to protect ourselves and not connect with others. How often have you really been attacked? What was troubling those who attacked you? Was it really you, or something they projected on to you?
  6. Make it a point to connect with some friends regularly. There is not enough time for us to connect with each one of our friends every month, but try to connect in person frequently if only for coffee. Phone calls and emails can help in between times. These contacts will help you to keep up with them.


May you develop stronger and deeper Friendships!


This is the ninth in my blog series on Brendon Bur chard’s book, ref=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1451667531/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1451667531&linkCode=as2&tag=injoyheaandli-