“Humans are social creatures – we’re hardwired to connect. Even when we’re not actually connecting digitally, we’re in a constant state of heightened anticipation.” ~Arianna Huffington – The Sleep Revolution~
It is true, but not all humans are naturally social creatures. For many, connecting with others is hard. Very much a learned skill rather than something that comes naturally. For this memoir, let me start where I need to start…
Hi, I am Peter, I am dyslexic. It is psychedelic and chaotic, but dyslexic brains work differently than most people’s. As many as one in ten humans have a mild form of dyslexia. The mild forms are normally resolved easily, early in childhood. Although I work with words every day of the week, I am still dyslexic.
My son had a severe form of dyslexia and attended a specialist school for dyslexic children in Lichfield, England. My mother was diagnosed by an expert as having Asperger’s Syndrome. This has been described as autism for higher functioning people, meaning sufferers have a higher IQ. These conditions (Asperger’s, Dyslexia in all its forms, and Autism) are related to each other and have one common side effect – sufferers don’t connect in the same way most humans do. Many live very isolated lives, being socially challenged, ill at ease with the outside world.
Dyslexic people have structural and functional differences with how their brains work. These differences do not affect intelligence. Most dyslexics have higher intelligence. My son was tested when he was at school and found to be in the 97th percentile, meaning that he was in the top 3% of intelligence of his age group. The problems of dyslexia relate to the processing of words (the sounds and the text) which are processed disjointedly for sufferers.
One side effect I have found is that many memory improvement techniques do not work for me because of the differences in how dyslexic people store information in their brains. I find visualisation or hooks have no impact and do not improve memory. I have taken at least 6 different courses, and read countless books, during the last 20 years. I have found I either know something or I don’t, and those things I know I have a photographic memory for.
There is only one technique that works, the mind map. Yet this technique was not designed as a direct aid to memory, but rather, to aid idea development and design.
I have learned to connect. It does not come naturally as Arianna Huffington suggests it should. The key word here is “learned”. Connection has been a learned skill rather than being hardwired and must be re-learned and re-learned as time ticks by. Having never easily made friends, I have few people around me in my support system. I had to learn every one of the basic courtesies like saying “thank you” when people help. I could so easily have been one of those geeks who sat in the corner of the room not saying anything to anyone, doing my job quietly and effectively.
This is all but for a woman I met on my first job. I was 20. She, much older, probably in her 40s at that time. She wanted a young man to help her with something. Being the youngest employee, I accompanied her in the red sports car she owned. We went charging off down those English country lanes, well over the speed limit, taking those curves as if it were the Parabolica bend at Monza Autodromo in Italy. Our task, collect the Christmas tree for the company’s lobby. My task, purely, to act as ballast for the return trip. Employees from the supplier tied it down to the car. We returned along those same roads, fully laden at top speed.
I don’t remember this lady’s name, but she helped me develop as a person, bringing me out of my shell, helping me talk to people, teaching those niceties I had never learned before. Because of her, I became part of the family at the company. I wish I could remember her name, but sadly that took the toll of time. By the time I left that company I knew the value of those little courtesies that most people take for granted but had to consciously think about them whenever I communicated with people.
Looking back on those conversations, I realise there are many things other people take for granted that I have never known how to.
Journey of Life
My wife used to chastise me on those occasions when we had guests because I did not offer them beverages. It was not a case of not caring for others but simply assuming they would speak up if they needed anything (the opposite of how many people had been brought up). I was never shy about telling people what I needed. She had to teach me that it was impolite not to offer beverages to people and that people expect to be asked.
These were many lessons of this type I had to learn on this journey of life. I can never take anything for granted.
You see what I mean about the brain functioning differently? There is no intention to be rude, but it can often seem that way. It is simply a case of the brain being wired differently. Knowing this, I have passed many of the lessons on to my son. His classic mistake was calling us from a mobile (or cellular) phone. The conversation was somewhat like:
“Hey Dad, can you help me?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Which road do I need to take to get to (he named the place)?”
My wife, being present, indicated to me that she wished to talk to him. However, as soon as I told him the route he needed to take, he ended the conversation (without a ‘thank you’ and before I could say another word), then immediately turned off the phone. Yes, I said turned off the phone. It did not run out of power, it was turned off.
… No Answer…
I dialed the phone number immediately, then again, another three or four times, but he didn’t answer. Later in the day, he told us that because he had the information he needed he simply pushed the “off” button on the phone, turning off the power. He was not thinking that other people may need to talk to him. Something most people consider as the reason for having the phone. Do you see what I mean about brains being wired differently?
The only reason he needed the phone on was when he needed to talk to others. Many dyslexics have been trapped in a cage for years, not a real jail, but a social cage, and, as a result, know the only person they can rely on is themselves. They block others out.
Today he doesn’t have a cell phone, probably the only person in his generation not to.
Adam Waytz, Psychologist and Associate Professor of Management and Organizations, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University agrees. “Aristotle’s famous aphorism (that humans are by nature social animals) needs to be retired.”” He goes on to say, “sociality is a dominant force that shapes thought, behavior, physiology, and neural activity.” He concludes that “enthusiasm over the social brain, social hormones, and social cognition must be tempered with evidence that being social is far from easy, automatic, or infinite.”” The reason, these processes rely on being triggered.
For most people, the triggering happens in early childhood when their parents (mainly their mothers) show them how to behave in each circumstance. My mother was skilled at manipulating people and bending them to do things for her. She had little interest in the social niceties. I never received guidance on these triggers at that time, giving me an awkward start to life. Yet I must thank those who helped me along the way (even if they do not see this). Today, I appreciate the value of being a social animal. I make mistakes along the way and must learn new triggers from others.
Peter B. Giblett is a freelance editor and writer with a background in business and technology management. He is also a non-practising lawyer. English born, now living in Canada. He’s an Alumni of City University (London) and University of West London. Entrant and winner of National Novel Writing Month 2015, a novel he is currently editing. He runs his own blog at called GobbledeGoox, which provides thoughts on writing, blogging, words, and wordcraft.
Other Items on Two Drops by Peter B. Giblett
- Tick to Nothing – A Poem
- Living a Golden Era? Are you a Serious Writer?
- The Simple way to Write Non-fiction Creatively
- The Non-Fiction Contract
Peter B. Giblett writes his own blog called GoddledeGoox, where he discusses thoughts on blogging, writing, words, and word-craft, take a look. He is a freelance editor and writer.
The featured image is Psychedelic Chaos by NoOnexy, a CC0 Public Domain image from Pixabay
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