The idea that you can be human at work is still not fully realised, and not reflected in the way we communicate online. Matthew Bellringer is someone who helps those who don’t feel like they fall into the mainstream – especially at a neurodiversity level – to do their best work.
Matthew understands the struggles that many people who experience the world differently go through. Whether it be masking, code-switching, or being asked to be a domain expert on your brain chemistry, Matthew helps turn many of the gifts labeled as deficiencies into strengths.
This episode talks about neurodiversity, disability, and access. Also there is some category 1 swearing. Also Mark says something rude about willies.
Some things to consider
- It’s great to be curious about people who are different. But we can’t expect everyone to be our tour guide at all times.
- We should normalise the idea of setting out what we need in order to do our best work.
- It’s OK not to make everything shareable and accessible if that is beyond your reach right now. If you know it’s not accessible and you don’t care, that’s a different story.
- Risk is an inherent part of being human, and there’s dignity in risk.
Check out my new newsletter, a love letter to your own creativity. Sign up at Steadman.land.
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I've been playing with new ways of describing what I do for a long time. What I help people with is technology enabled divergent innovation.
I've got to write those words down.
You're listening to Ear Brain Heart, an experiment in showing up. I'm Mark Steadman and I'm working to understand how we can bring our whole selves to our work in our marketing and in our everyday practice.
I discovered the concept of neurodiversity listening to a podcast by Dan Harmon, the writer of one of my favorite sitcoms. Since then I've come to understand how as a techie, my need for control has led to solving problems that weren't necessarily the problems that needed to be solved at that specific moment.
Had I Matthew bell-ringer in my corner a couple of years ago, my work might have looked a lot different. If you identify as neurodivergent, Matthew is the mentor you meet along your hero's journey. He helps reframe people's so-called deficiencies into superpowers. And he's my guest for this episode.
We talk a lot about what it means to be different, but we started by discussing a social network it's taken me a while to embrace.
for me, you know, I tend to do the majority of my marketing on LinkedIn. I stay away from all of the platforms owned by Facebook. Not just for the, kind of, I was going to say meta reasons, that's an appalling But not just for the kind of bigger picture reasons, but because fundamentally the way the platform thinks about interaction and relationships don't work terribly well for me and how I think about interactions and relationships. And I find LinkedIn, as social networks go, is probably the closest large platform to the way that I think about things, maybe Twitter as well. I think um, that there's something much more genuinely open about the conversations on LinkedIn. And it's interesting to do in a professional context. I think this is a really important part of it.
You know, a lot of the content on LinkedIn is actually very slick and kind of glib and not very effecting. So it does very much stand out when, when, when there is more humanity in that work context. And I think that's not because LinkedIn, you know, LinkedIn is almost the leading in this space. The idea that you can be human at work is still not fully realized by any means for anyone with any needs that don't fall right into the middle of the mainstream. When I say the mainstream, I typically mean white middle-aged able-bodied neuro-typical cisgendered middle-class university educated men.
It's funny that there is there's it's such a long categorization that covers just like default human being, you know?
those people to be in. So many of like, you know, they're actually quite a small percentage of the population, which is why it's so surprisingly, so massively over-represented at the top of most organizations and in government and everything. But well, when I say surprising, it indicates that there is something other than probability, you know, then just the raw probability going on.
And so, uh, I think it's a really interesting one to it, to actually, you know, provide a platform where, where, where people are articulating their experiences, their real human experiences and the consequences and, and the ways of working with that. I think it's, for me, it's, it's a different way of thinking about how and why we work actually in there that it feels like there's a kind of emerging group.
There is, there is some filter bubble stuff and you know, it's, it's a social network and I think it's, to some degree it's indicative of our networks. There's a, there is a lot of the other content still on LinkedIn. But I think it's interesting that it's found some degree of a home there.
There can't be. Well, I was going to say there can't be a coincidence, but perhaps it is that I find it interesting anyway, that of the social networks I can think of LinkedIn is the first, if not only of the major ones to do simple things like gender pronouns
to actually just put that in the profile as an option, rather than people having to add it to the name or edit well, you know, choosing to to, to, you know, to add that is that that information is then readily available for those well, I was gonna say for those who need it for, for those who, who wanna use that information. And I, it's something I use a fair bit when I'm writing about other, other people, if I'm writing about a journalist and saying they've covered something, it's really useful to be able to see their preferred pronoun, and you would think a network like Twitter would, it would behoove them to add a single simple field. And it just, it shows that as much as I think to a certain community, LinkedIn, probably not to the community that we speak to, but to a large proportion of people, LinkedIn is viewed with a degree of snobbery and yes, the interface does feel like a Microsoft Word thing, but it does seem to be a considered space where they are thinking about those things more than more than other spaces are.
Yeah, I think the underlying ethos of LinkedIn, LinkedIn has always felt more comfortable for me than the many other social networks I've read Reid Hoffman's book about startups and then some of the, some of the ethos behind it. And I think it's a, for me, it, it, it comes from a good intent. How well that's operationalized is always a question, but it comes from good intent, whereas I'm not necessarily convinced that every other social network does.
And I really like, your point there that there is it, isn't just about Making people feel good about themselves in that sense. You know, it's not vanity, it's actually helpful for us. If we're working with a person that we understand their needs, we understand that we've given them an opportunity to explain themselves in terms that make sense to them. And, and so you, you don't, mis-gender someone or you don't make any other mistake. And, and because I think that is one of the, one of the big challenges. And one uh, one of the resistances that a lot of people who don't experience themselves as marginalized in some way go through a lot of fear, you know, I'm, I'm, I, I think a lot of the resistance to, to more openness and inclusivity actually turns out to be not necessarily fair of the person themselves, but at least as much a fear that you might say something or do something wrong and you don't know how to engage with the person who is a member of this group, and you're afraid. And, and that is then kind of ends up being projected into something different. And I think actually scaffolding, this is, is very helpful.
I'm reminded of a, of an anxious, but by today's standards, an ancient book now called I believe it's called, does he take sugar? And I think I, I don't know if it was a child's book, but I heard about it when I was a kid. And the point being. The it's about questions being asked you simple things, and this was back in the eighties.
And so, you know, I was going to say, it's a different time. I don't know how different it is, but you take the idea of someone in a wheelchair and someone pushing that wheelchair and you ask the person pushing the wheelchair. If the person in the wheelchair would like a cup of tea, rather than asking the person in the wheelchair.
And it's, it's, it seems silly, but because I think we think it's 20, 22, surely that doesn't happen. And I think it probably still does. And I think probably more to the case, we probably avoid just avoid the subject of teal altogether, because we don't want to get it wrong where, you know, we, we feel like there's, as I said earlier, the trip wires, but we feel like there are these trip wires and, and it can be uncomfortable.
Do we. Do we have to just, the other thing is I'm really conscious of is when anyone has a degree of difference is, and we saw this a lot. I think in the black lives matter movement is it's not the person with the difference. It's not their job to educate the person who is typical in, in whatever, whatever division w you know, if you like that we're talking about.
I completely agree. It's one of the really big. One, one of the difficulties is, is it puts all the burden of difference on the person who is marked out as different. It's like all of the consequences, all of the costs, all of the, you know, essentially it costs someone as being at fault. And then it becomes someone's in inverted commerce responsibility though it's actually outside of someone's ability to respond very often to then kind of articulate those needs in ways that the person who is part of the mainstream understands, the conventional person understands. And and to do all of the work. And for me, that's problematic on multiple levels.
One of the primary levels is that almost everyone who is a part of any minority who has learned to engage with the conventional world successfully will be adapting almost automatically. In neurodivergent circles, it's often called masking. In in, in circles around culture and race. It's sometimes called code switching. But that adaption is always going on. And so when you're asking someone who's already done a lot of the work just to participate in the space to then do even more of the work, so you can just understand it very easily and trivially, you're asking a huge amount. And you're also in a professional context, you're asking someone to be a professional domain expert in something that they've got no, you know, it's done not, not their thing.
It's like, yeah. You know, I bet that not every neurodivergent person is a psychologist and no, should they be, you know, maybe they, they wanted to be a program, but maybe they're a programmer. You know, maybe they w w wherever they are, it doesn't imply that you need to be able to explain all that in those terms. And for me, that's one of the really problematic parts of it.
However, where this intersects is that's very much around. The generalization and the generalizability, like describing causality, clustering planning, strategizing, and that is definitely something that isn't necessarily something that belongs to a person. However, the one thing that always does, and from my perspective actually is the thing is very hard to ask an offensive question in this space. And I'd like to kind of explore offensive questions a little bit afterwards, but is that idea about one's own experience. It's like your experience of a thing is inarguable. You experienced it this way. Why are you experienced it this way and what you could do about it, but those are areas that are less well-known, you know, those are areas that we could explore with others. And then, you know, there might be validity, but the fact that you experienced it a certain way is yours. And a lot of the problematic stuff in this whole domain comes from this invalidation of, of an experience for the world, and comes from the inability of people who haven't had the opportunity to develop the capacity, to see and work with other people's experience of the world when it's fundamentally different from their own.
That domain expert things is, is fascinating because I as someone with a visual impairment, I, I don't really know where the limits and the edges are of what I have. You know, one of the most common and well meant questions that I get is how much can you see? And that's a really difficult question to answer, and I've sort of got better at kind of pushing back and sort of saying, well, I don't have your site to compare it against. So I don't know. And, and, and it's also really hard because people want to, often they want something they can latch onto, and sometimes I'm not able to give them that. They want to be able to latch on to a comparative uh, a yard sticker, if you like. And so it's like, well, you know, if you look at this thing, is it blurry? And. I'm like, I don't, I don't actually, I'm not trying to be obtuse. I don't know. It's just, it's far away. So it's small. I don't, I don't know if to you, it looks less far away or less small, or if it is that small, you can still make it out, like as you were talking also, I was thinking, I kind of just want a page on a website somewhere. That I can just point people to, or just throw them up a QR code or something inside. If you want to know all the stuff, here's all the stuff it's in really simple plain language. Because I haven't got the spoons today, you know, I haven't got the energy to, and it's not because you're asking about questions. It's not because you're a bad person. I just, I'm just trying to cross the road, dude, you know.
It's just, yeah, I think it is. It's just like the, there is, um, there is a quality to a question that when you, that there is no value for you as an individual in answering it, you know, it's like sometimes when someone asks, you know, it's the difference between an interesting question and that uninteresting question, is this question going to give us, create something? Am I going to learn something from answering this question? Is this a real conversation, or. is this you asking me to do unpaid consultancy?
There's a really interesting idea. I've been exploring around the concept of access writers, which is essentially to lay out ones kind of needs ones preferences as well. Like what, what are baseline needs, what are preferences and be able to articulate that in a nice, clear way. Just simply again, from my perspective, I like the concept of rider because it's not about like, you know, it's not a charity thing again or like pity thing. It's, this is the context I need to do my best work. My best work is valuable. We understand that, and this will help me do more of it. This will help you access this value. And I think framing it in those terms is a really helpful way to think about it. I also like the fact that rider has implications of kind of rock and roll and like, but but I think that idea, you know, that we all.
And the thing is we all have needs. We all have different kind of. Perceptions and awarenesses and needs. And the difficulty is if you're conventional, you just don't hit the limits of it. Very often, the environment is designed so that it doesn't, you don't notice it. And so you never get it tested, you know, it's essentially, it's like, you know, people talk about perfect vision. Well, perfect vision would go on forever, you know? Right. I mean, that would be like Superman vision. Yeah. exactly. Really. I can see this tiny thing on the horizon. It's not perfect. It's you know, processed and good enough. for whatever you're trying to do and that good-enough-ness is another aspect of it. And I think everyone reflecting on their needs is a really helpful thing. It also normalizes that process, you know, that idea that we all,
what I was thinking.
different needs and, and one of the big issues is he, you know, around adaption stuff is people like, oh, you know, we can't do that, it's expensive as like, or whatever. It's like what the environment has already been designed in support of one group, one set of people's needs. So the question is, is it desirable to improve that design in a way that encounters, that encompasses more people's states? Rather than saying it, you know, seeing it as like it's finished, it's done, it's perfect. It's like, well, it is for one use case, is that use case enough? And if it is then you're making a whole set of other decisions about inclusivity that you're, you're essentially saying, well, okay then this, this group of people is not valuable in this space. Which is potentially a decision.
You know, I don't actually have a problem with that per se. It's a reasonable decision in certain circumstances, as long as it's intentionally made, it's, it's justified, it's well justified and it has a, you know, you might say, okay, we're a really small organization and it doesn't make sense for us to fully adapt everything in a certain direction right now for for a given set of needs, because we don't have the resources we can't benefit. You know, it, it, it's a reasonable thing to say as long as it's a conversation, as long as it's a reasoned decision and it's explicits, because in many ways I find it as problematic as creating barriers. If you half-ass, it.
Now does half-assing it mean you're knowingly doing a shitty job or you're doing the best that you can with the resources you have available?
no. I mean, I think for me, it's half arcing is when you are aware of improvements that are within your ability unit, within the scope that you choose not to make. It's very often that thing of like, it becomes that difference of how something is said it should be versus how it's experienced. It's essentially is very often interventions that are from someone who doesn't experience the thing is the barrier and how they think it should work. And the difficulty is that actually these can add up really quite considerably to the point in which you get a situation that I tend to call functional exclusion, which is that there are no hard barriers to participation, but they all add up in such a way as it becomes not worth it.
Yeah. I often feel that as well. We, you're just not welcome in this space, be that a virtual space or whatever. It's just your, you're not, it's not that you're deliberately excluded. It's just that you don't really this isn't for you or for your pop, this isn't for you. And that's sometimes how I was going to say interpreted, but that's not necessarily fair, but that's sometimes how it rings to me.
know you're right. That is what the actual operator that. So that's what the experience of it is. And, and I think I've ha I have more sympathy for people and I think it's actually more valid. For people who say that explicitly say, look, we have, we are aware that this is not complete yet. We are working in that direction and that's okay. It's absolutely fine to be, you know, to say, look, we have the will. And instead of saying, okay, yeah. we're fully inclusive and whatever, but here's a form you have to fill in, in handwritten form. You have to complete to tell us. And I think it's also partly because those, the, the, the, the first space is the ones where we were aware of the limits, and we've actually explicitly named the limits and the barriers are much more welcoming spaces and you're allowed to work with those things. you know, And it also gives you the ability to prepare and say, look, okay, well, I've got my way of dealing with this, so we can, we can handle that and you can handle this, and we can come to an agreement rather than the kind of like, turn up and someone says, okay, we're going to support you. Ready to be completely ready to support you. Oh, oh, you need that? Oh, we can't do that.
no, no, no, no,
no. can't do that. Well, have You tried, have you tried this thing that there's like, there's like, yeah. So, so. I think for me, it's, it's actually being explicit and knowing that no effort is perfect. Everything's going to be limited, you know, and, and working with this limited knowledge, there's no shame in not knowing there's shame in not wanting to know
Yeah. Or, or not doing anything with that knowledge when you are capable of, and you
Yeah. So, so for me, it does really relate to this idea of like how we on both sides, how we articulate our experience and on the other side, how we support others in that and elicit that from others.
Something that I come up against every, every couple of days, at least. And I'm slowly given up the fight because it's just draining and it just leaves me in twitter canoes is, especially on Twitter is someone posts something that they've written and they post it as an image. And what that means then is the message that that sends to me is if you want to read this, then you've got to zoom in. The text is now going to look really, really blurry because it's a really low scale image. And, and we haven't provided the text in another form for you, so good luck. You know, and so often I will write to people and say, can you actually post this as text? Because a picture of text, a picture of some writing isn't right. It's not texts that's, you know, and.
And that's fine. And it's. The frustration is not necessarily that people do that what I get frustrated by is the sort of defensive reaction or the idea that that is not their responsibility. And I ended up getting into that with, with someone about, well, it's not my, as the person who's having difficulty reading this, it's not my responsibility to make this more accessible to me. The internet, the, you know, the main thing that the internet was invented for and the web especially is for sharing text. Like that's literally what the web that's all the web could do for quite a while was just to share text. We're really good at knowing how we can share text and move text around the internet. I think there's a way that we can do this on Twitter.
I think for me it's there's there's there's I, in part, I agree in part as someone who has doesn't, I simply do not have the intellectual capacity for doing some of those kinds of things of my own accord. So like the, the process what's involved in generating that kind of thing is something that's quite costly to me on a neurological level. So there's a, On some level, I don't think it's the responsibility of the end user. Actually. I think it's the responsibility of the platform to scaffold the end user in making things more accessible and support them in that.
LinkedIn is very good at this. Again, if we go back, you know, you look at video, it's doing it for different reasons, but the reasons it's doing it fine. When you upload a video, you're very quickly prompted to upload subtitles to go along with it. And the reason is because lots of people just scroll through video and they, they want to know what's being said without having to send the speaker on. That's fine. But it also means the people who can't hear can also read the subtitles and the fact that LinkedIn is very sort of, it quite prominently displays that Facebook actually does as well. I think Twitter, I haven't get has the option, but it's a little bit more tucked away as, as it is with alt text. And so, yeah, I think that, yeah, that there are, there are places where this is getting better, but I do absolutely take your point. I think it is, it is on the platforms. It's their opportunity to make this easier.
Yeah. And I think you're right also in pointing out that there are almost always really good use. Like there, there are often really good business drivers to implement usability improvement.
It's like, you know, I do transcription for everything I edit, I provide transcripts for all of my client episodes though, that I added all of my stuff is auto transcribed. And then usually I'm sort of, I'm correcting the most egregious errors as, as I go through. And w if I have to sell that to people, I will begin by talking about the fact that it's kind of the right thing to do to make your stuff accessible, to as accessible, to as many people as possible. And there are lots of subtle reasons why that's a really good and helpful thing to do. But there's also the added benefit that the more text you provide to a computer or to a search engine, the more it can understand about what you make. And so when it can see that this transcript is attached to this podcast episode, it gets a lot better at understanding what the episode is about. And so, yeah, that, like, there are good kind of mechanical reasons why it's sensible as well. And if you need that to be the reason that you open up to more people, then sure.
I think for me, part of it is, it's okay for other people to make their own decisions, and that has implications about my interest in them and my relationship with them. But that's theirs to make. So It's like if you choose not to make your stuff accessible, I'll take your word that it's not for me. And I won't have anything to do with you.
Yeah. It's like a market Decision. I'm not in your market.
Where we're talking about things just publicly offered like that, it's I don't have a problem with that. Where we have a a statutory requirement to engage with things it's very, very different. So if we can't avoid engaging with services, then that's utterly different.
So let's get onto uh, you, you want to talk about offensive questions on, so I'm, I'm curious.
Yeah. So this is one of the funny things is, is in a lot of my work, one of the huge things. I asked about from largely from leadership and management is I want to find out more about it, but I'm really embarrassed. I don't know how to ask the questions that aren't really offensive essentially. And I think this does link up with what we were talking about with all of the burden and the understanding about the general condition. And that's that for me is one of the classes of offensive questions. That class I tend to call JFGI. Um,
So the, the questions that you could just Google and should just Google is, is, is doing that. You know, you can ask me about my individual experience. But if you're asking about like, wow, how do people with ADHD do this? Well, sorry, I don't write well, I mean, in my case, the difficulty is I kind of do, but I can, I can give you the author, the, the, the, that view as well. But for most people, you know, it's like, how do say, well, I don't, it's not, it's not my business to know what, how other people experience the world necessarily. It's so, so, so it's a problematic question.
I really appreciate that take of like, cause it gets us into that thing of the, the whatever community, you know, the, the disabled community or the neuro divergent community and it's this, and it's just, you know, we, we hear the same thing with, with, with race as well. It's this idea that we're all in touch. Um, we all check in with each other and yeah.
I think it's some level, it's a capacity that sometimes called active listening. It's that ability to engage with what you don't know and what someone else is telling you. Because very many of us experience, I think if we're, if we're, if we're different in any way we'll experience probably something that's an awful lot like what I would call the Joey meme, the meme where like, from, from friends where one of the characters is explaining things to the other, one of the characters, one by one by one, and then at the end just says something completely. And it's that experience where we're like, Yes. this follows, this follows. And then they're just like, then it just goes, it doesn't have any consequences. It doesn't sink in. It's like being, I sometimes call it being listened to, without being heard.
And I think to really hear someone who isn't, who doesn't share your frame of experience requires active investigation. Unless, because otherwise you're just asking someone else to figure out, like, to essentially read your mind and know your, how you it's just like you were saying with that.
So I don't know how you see the world. So I can't tell you how this is different, any more than you can tell me how it's different. And I think that's, you know, the, the, that, that capacity, isn't something that people are very often taught and get the opportunity to develop, unless you are already different. In which case you tend to. Almost automatically as a way of surviving
I don't know if I have the words to articulate this properly, but that's a real interesting thing of getting into that conversation of you know, like how much can you see what, I don't know. Cause I don't know if your thing to compare it to it's like, well, yeah. Why don't I ask you that question?
w and I, that, that for me, I want to go through and that ultimately is my test is, is if you want a very quick thumbnail test about whether a question? is offensive or not try answering it yourself. One of the other questions, one of the interesting things is if we're in any group that's different, but this is particularly true of people with a medicalized difference is that there is a dehumanization that comes with the medical experience of that. And so, for example, in the neuro diversity space, there is plenty of stories where a manager might, might, or, or someone in the organization might think it is appropriate to ask someone about their medication, because it's like do, and it's like, would we talk about this in any other context? Would you? And so this is, but you see what I mean?
So again, it's like, and this is, this is another example of like, it's a personal question or weirdly, like how. Like very personal. There's something about being different, particularly in this, this, this, this kind of neurodiversity disability space that makes our embodied kind of human experiences that are normally quite private, somehow a matter of public discussion. It's like I'm having sex, going to the bath, going to the toilet. All of these things are somehow allowable to lay. You know, some people, people think they are, they, they, they are, they, and it's like, would you ask this of anyone else? Would you ask this question of anyone else? And again, that test is it, would you, how would you feel about asking this direct question, you know, like about you doing this, and again, if it's problematic, then think about whether you can ask it a different way or whether you even need to know that.
That's. Yeah, I was thinking about that as well, actually, S I D D is this just idle curiosity or is just, and I think another point, like to anyone who's listening, who maybe doesn't identify in any kind of sense of difference, you know, you, you don't have that, that idea. I think because what, what I think neither of us are saying is like, you should know, you should never do this, or you should never ask these kinds of questions.
But I think that litmus test is great of, of, especially for someone you don't know or don't know. Well, it's like, would this question be offensive? I also want to make space for. The 11 o'clock at night in the pub or in the, in the conference center after an event, and we're all getting wasted and someone says, you know what, I've always wanted to know this about you. Like, if you, as someone who is different, when I make, you know, sort of hold that space and play it. And I have that kind of fun moment where someone's like, you know, these are the questions. If you know someone well enough, and if the S you know, it really does come down to safety for me,
like when I used to work in, in retail as someone who was at the time because of the work I did, my visual impairment was very prominent because I was working on screens all day. I was helping people fix computers. And so that was always sort of right there. And, you know, different people deal with that in different ways. Most people don't really say anything. But then there are some who make jokes. And I think I probably lacked the vocabulary or the. Then, but what I would say now is, well, there are some people who get to make those jokes and there's other people who don't and the people who get to make those jokes are the people I already know are coming from a place of friendship and, and we've already crossed that Rubicon we've, we've, we've dealt with that barrier. We know it's not a barrier versus the people who oh, it's just banter and I'm sure that's a combination. That's an entirely different
I think we're humor. Humor is a really interesting one in there because cause humor is a powerful way to explore and to share kind of experiences. And the funny paradoxes that emerge. There's there's that there is a kind of intent in, in humor and in an, in a question as well. And, and the it's always about the direction. It's always about where the lens is really pointing. And for me, what makes a space safe is am I free to turn that conversation, that question around, and we know that kind of late night chat is like, you know, you can answer it and then use it. What about you?
Yeah. Or you can ask it and I can tell you to go fuck yourself because we know ourselves well enough that we can have that it's like, Hey, you don't get to ask that one. Move on.
Yeah, exactly. And I think that that is a part of it. And the other, the other thing around jokes is like, who is actually the butt of the joke,
because this is one of the really interesting things. When you look at someone like Frankie Boyle, who is incredibly offensive on many levels, but whose main targets are privilege is almost exclusive, targets are privilege, which is probably why he's considered so offensive actually, um, the, that his jokes aren't problematic in that same way, despite the fact that they might be very unpleasant on a, on a number of levels, than the kind of more apparently banal, less unpleasant ones that are about reinforcing the stereotypes and the imbalanced power dynamics and this and all of that, that comes with it. You know, I think for me, that's, that's when it becomes problematic is the.
Cause there are some very funny jokes about, you know, and if you ever get a group of people. I, whenever I've been in any group of any kind of people at any form of minority, there are always a ton of, in jokes about being in that group. You know, as a drummer, you know, and most drummers I know share drummer jokes because it's, you know, there's a big difference in that humor. And it's a, it's a, it's some level, it's a gallows humor is a way of coping, but it's also a way of subverting and challenging the narrative, or it's a way of reinforcing the narrative that keeps us, you know, the, that marginalizes us.
And I think it also helps create an, an. When that's why it happens. You know, you got a group of people who share a difference together because so often people who are different feel like they are in the outgroup in some capacity, they might feel like that they're outside looking in. And so these jokes are a way to sort of ring fence to create a little space and say, well, these, these are just for us because just, just right now, just for this moment, this is just for us. We don't have to be inclusive. We don't have to do any, this one, these little jokes now they're just for us. And that's okay.
And I that's, I mean, in jokes is another part. I think you kind of felt, you know, you're, you're, you're alluding to this, there's in-jokes and actually, particularly for neurodivergent people there, we, we, most neurodivergent spaces seem to develop their, their in-jokes because, you know, there's particularly so certain neuro minorities autism spectrum condition in particular is associated with if you look at the diagnostic criteria, you might see the suggestion that, that kind of lack of humor. And it's absolutely not the case. It's just a different mode of humor, and that there's a different set of, you know, they're there, but that process is still, you know. And it's, it's actually, it's like when we are in a space of us nurse and we're not adapting, we're not masking, we're not trying to reach other people like reach that, that norm, whatever that, that the current conventional is, our spaces become very, very difficult for conventional people to participate in, in any meaningful way.
that is, again, is a choice. And then sometimes, sometimes it's appropriate. Sometimes it's less appropriate, but it's notable for me that our participation in conventional spaces is no less easy than conventional peoples in our adapted spaces.
I, I don't have very many examples of where, cause I like, I don't hang around with a lot of people with, with visual disabilities where that is you know, that's the reason that that we're hanging out, but every, I used to be every 18 months, it might be every year now I go to a low vision center. And I have a little assessment and it is it's, it's amazing that maybe that and my parent's house, those are the two spaces where I can go and feel utterly, just, I'm not, you know, the mask is off. I'm not, I don't have to try to do anything that if I don't know where I'm going, I don't have to be embarrassed because I know completely in this space, like there are people with far more pressing needs. And so, you know, that there's this whole spectrum, but everybody has that basic understanding of like, I don't know what your needs are, like if you're looking lost or if you just need to know where the toilet is, oh yeah, no, no worries. And people get good at knowing, engaging how to like how much help to give and all that kind of stuff. And it's really, it's not easy to navigate, you know?
I mean, I, I, in some ways, it's, it is just a case of like the appropriate level. And I think that, you know, there's, there's, there's over helping and pandering is, is, is, is, is as problematic. And I, I want to be, I think this does actually link us to some marketing and some back to social media. And LinkedIn is there is problematic content for certainly speaking, you know, from my perspective as a neurodivergent person, but is essentially pandering. In, you know, quite a lot of corporate efforts in their blandness and unwillingness to engage with the complicity and the complexity end up pandering. And it's, it's, it's pity and it's, it's that, it's the, you know, it's the asking. Asking for help. And then someone just assuming that you need everything done for you. It's like, well, no, I just needed you to show me where that was and just like, it's not I don't need you to, yeah. I don't, I don't need you to help me to.
Yeah. Like I just need you to take it, to show me where the toilet is. I don't need you to hold my penis.
Yes, that's exactly the metaphor actually,
I said, that's a note to leave things on his neck. Well, we're not, we're not leaving the episode. I just wanted to take a quick moment to check in with you, and firstly, to say a massive thanks to Matthew bellringer for, uh, joining me on this episode, it was an absolute bust of a conversation, and I think it was the second time where we did something podcast related and then, just had a chat for ages afterwards and really got into the weeds about a bunch of stuff. He's a fascinating gentleman to, uh, to, to listen to, uh, as I think this episode evidences. So, ah, Yeah, matthewbellringer,com and do check the show notes as well for links. To, to all the, all the relevant things.
If there is so many in your life who would benefit from hearing this conversation, please do me a solid and send them to Ear Brain Heart dot com slash four. That is the shortcut to get to this episode so they can also, uh, get to enjoy some of the wisdom of Matthew Bellringer and some of the renting of Mark Steadman.
Next week, we have Anne Miltenburg on the show from Brand the Change. We got talking about entrepreneurship in Nairobi and how hope is not a marketing strategy, about how we can create change some of my own stories around how I began understanding how much I wanted to work with change makers. So that is all coming up next week, uh, so, uh, if you're not already following the show, then do do that. You can open your podcast, player and search for Ear Brain Heart, and you will find me.
Uh, so let us get back to our chat then with Matthew. And we start talking about being able to be given either a little bit extra time to figure something out, or just be given room to fail. And how that can be important to help us stretch our own comfort zones, because it's very tempting for people who can see if we're struggling with something to want, to be able to help, but that kind of, that can sometimes be a bit white knighty Um, and so that's where we pick up the conversation with Matthew Bellringer.
There's a really powerful idea that comes from actually comes from work with very young people and very old people around what it is to create environments that are not fully safe, but safe enough. And this idea is the idea of the dignity of risk
Hmm. Oh, what a fantastic phrase.
that there is, you know, part of humanity, part of being human is the ability to put oneself at risk, to be vulnerable, to do things suboptimally, to potentially hurt yourself, to potentially, you know, find out that something isn't what you hoped it would be an hour late, or you can't do it after all that there.
And, you know, and to bear the consequences of that. And what were the consequences of that? And I think for me, you know, people often mistake Denying us, those degrees of freedom, denying that dignity of risk for support when support is actually much more around the consequences and the scaffolding. So we know, you know, so we can know we can make an informed decision about that in whatever terms we have to engage with that.
Just as we wrap up, I in 2008, I was, I went skydiving with my family and Talk about the D the D the dignity of risk is I was, I was offered the the ability to, to jump out of an airplane. It's strapped to the strap to another man's back. And all that was different for me is that we have the usual safety briefing. We all participated in that. And then as people were walking to the plane, my guy just took me aside and like, didn't really do anything. He was just like, yeah, let me show you a couple of other little things, make sure you're okay. You know, how to do the, you know, the the cross, the arms and make your shape like a banana and all that kinda stuff. So he just gave me like an extra quick little briefing one-on-one and then that was it, you know, w we, we cracked on. And so, yes, I had the dignity to take that risk. Uh, but that level of support was just enough to be like, you don't have to make a thing about it. Let me just show you, these are the ropes, literally. And, and, and off we go,
Yeah. I think it's, for me, it's a, it's it's acceptance that. It doesn't need to be done for us. It just needs to be the same level of difficulty or similar comparable level of difficulty as everyone else experiences. That's that's, what's being asked for.
Yeah. exactly. But for me really on a structural level, you know, it's like, how can we support everyone in doing this? Cause the, the difficulty for me is, you know, when we're talking about people, who've never encountered these challenges to their experience. There isn't blame. There, there can't be. Because they've never, the environment has never given them the chance to develop these capacities. They've never been introduced to this thing. And how difficult though it may be to believe if your ongoing kind of life experience constantly brings you face to face with it, but it's true. You know, you can be in a situation where they simply do not encounter this, or at the very least they can always move away from it if they do, they don't, they don't, they have the option of having it kind of, of not it not being a thing.
And so if you've had this situation, you simply do not have that awareness. And I think, we are talking about scaffolding on both sides to support both people in, in, in an understanding, a genuine meeting of experience, rather than putting all the burden on either or saying either is more problematizing either.
Yeah. If there's a mediator in between, you it'd be that social network, if there's a, whatever it is then yeah. Being able to, to for, for that mediating space place to have some responsibility, or I like to use the word opportunity rather than, you know, it has the, they have the opportunity to add that scaffolding. And, and, and encourage people, you know, in the same way, like little things, like we talked about the, the inclusion of the pronoun, you know, maybe, maybe there is a time in which it becomes easier or it becomes appropriate to have declarations of your needs. So that as you talked about with the accessibility, right. Or those who need that information can access it.
Um, well, Matthew this is, this has been a pleasure and this has gone in in very different directions, and I'm very pleased about that. Would you like to tell, let us know how they can connect with you and find out about more of the work that you do?
Yeah. absolutely. So I work from my own neurodivergence and then a lot of my exploration of that is actually my work now with an adult diagnosis of ADHD, there's quite a lot to process and quite a lot to understand. In some ways it hasn't changed quite as much as I thought it would. And like a lot of people who get a neurodivergent diagnosis, they go up to, you know, I've, I've told a few people, quite a few people expecting them to go, oh really? I had no idea. And they're like, Oh yeah, Yeah. yeah. That checks out that scans. Yeah.
So then, so there, there are a lot of patterns in, in many ways it's been kind of bringing it together, the, all of these threads and I'm, I'm, I've become really, really interested in what it is to established something new and do something genuinely different from these different perspectives. Because you know, we've talked about different experiences and over time, if you've experienced the world just in a different way, you're actually coming to a fundamentally different worldview in general. Like all of the relations between everything hang together in an orderly way. It's just a different order to the way that conventional people might say it. And that yields a ton of advantages around innovation and change.
So I'm, I support people through technology enabled divergent innovation, so doing this differently and using the tools and technology that we have available to do it. And I support individuals and organizations who want to be a better space for this. I specialize in neurodiversity, but actually this all intersects with a whole load of other, you know, pretty much everything in this space and, and really making it good business as well. It's not charity. It's not just for, because we, we please, we should it's because it is in everyone's interest to do this. Is from my perspective, you know, the, the, these worldviews hold answers that the conventional one simply does not two really big, messy wicked problems that affect everyone.
So if people want to get in touch with me about that or. Anything else, then you can find me on LinkedIn. I'm Matthew bell-ringer. And if you search for yeah. Divergent innovation guide, you'll find me there. You can also find me at matthewbellringer.com.
And you can also check out, I run a live live recorded web podcast called Delightful Dissent which which w Mark you've been, you've been a guest on which is all about challenging implicit assumptions. And understanding the world from this different perspective and how we can do it in a fun, playful, joyful way, you know, which is, which is absolutely core to what we're talking about today. And yeah, so, do do check that out. It's it's very much, I think the opposite and in some ways the, this edited polished podcast, it's all done live and it's all completely emergent. And again, this reflects playing to our strengths and it's okay to do things in a way that works for us. And, and so it's my own exploration of that. And yeah, do check that out.
And if you're, if you're really interested in any of this and any of this resonates for you, please do get in touch, simply because one of the huge things I find is that everyone I speak to in this space, doesn't think it's them. Everyone has this sense that what they are doing. Doesn't matter that much, that they are not doing anything groundbreaking. They're not doing anything terribly important. If you are successful, you're successfully engaging with what makes you different and what makes you marginalized. You are doing something important and it would be great to talk to you for all sorts of reasons.