Making dyslexia work for you and the audience


Question from a client:

Soon I have to lead group discussions in my workplace and will have to summarise the group’s ideas on a whiteboard.

I’m dyslexic and am dreading this.  I will be very embarrassed because I will make a lot of mistakes in my spelling.  In other situations I’ve managed to hide my disability, but now I will be shown up. What do I do?

What do I think?

Does it help that other people face similar problems? Little did we know that at THE ROYAL WEDDING when Kate’s brother had to do that very public reading, he was battling to manage his dyslexia.

There are some simple ways around the problem, plus there is a more challenging solution that could have very positive results for the way you connect with the group.

Some simple answers are:

  1. Get someone else to be the scribe.
  2. Make a secret crib sheet of  difficult words that are likely to come up and quietly check it.
  3. Tell the audience that a truly creative person can think of far more ways to spell a word than just one. Bad spellers in the group will warm to with this response.
  4. There are some more practical hints for dyslexic teachers at this University of Nottingham publication.  This may give you some ideas to adapt to your situation.

The challenging solution?

Tap into the power of revealing your vulnerability.  In this case you would say something like:

I am going to write your ideas up on the whiteboard.  You will have to tolerate some really bad spelling because I am dyslexic and although my vocabulary is fine, my brain doesn’t work well when it comes to writing those words down. It is something I’ve battled with all my life, but on the whole I’ve decided that the best thing is to just get on with things. Just forgive the weird spelling.’

Most top speakers get at least some of their impact from sharing there vulnerabilities. Those weak spots can build a strong connection. Yes, it’s a risk, but  the group will relax and relate to you far more warmly than if you were the winner of the national spelling bee. You will also  find that it opens up quite a lot of empathetic comments and some people will talk about similar challenges they face.

We think everybody else out there is living a perfect life. Until we open up about our own imperfections, we don’t find out the challenges that exist for others. In sharing our gaps, we can truly connect.

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