May 17, 2023 | Neurodiversity

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Supporting Neurodiversity and Communication in the Workplace


No two brains are the same. Just as we all look different, the way in which our brains operate is also different. This is why it’s important to have a better understanding of how neurodiverse brains work, and how to help these individuals in the workplace, especially when it comes to communication. Effective communication can be a challenge; therefore, these tips can be considered for improving how information, overall, is given and received.

Communication Differences 

Before we discuss how you can help support communication and neurodiversity in the workplace, let’s first talk about some of the differences in communications styles between neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals. In some cases, but not all, some of these can include the following: 

  • Neurodiverse individuals often prefer deeper, more meaningful conversations and enjoy in depth discussions. Those who are neurotypical, tend to engage more in small talk, and may spend shorter amounts of time discussing topics in depth.  
  • Neurodiverse people may avoid eye contact and speak directly and honestly. Neurotypical individuals use frequent eye contact and can be more indirect. They often see avoiding eye contact and being direct as rude. 
  • Neurodiverse people may struggle with tone and interpret words literally (such as sarcasm). Words carry more meaning than tone. Neurotypical individuals focus more on tone and context. 
  • Neurodiverse people often require clarification, which means they might ask several questions to help them understand better. Neurotypical people tend to attempt to figure things out on their own and can interpret asking too many questions as being incompetent. 
  • Neurodiverse individuals are often impacted by their environments, which can impact their communication skills, whereas neurotypicals aren’t as easily impacted by their environment. 

It is important to understand that neurodivergent individuals do not lack communication skills. Rather, they may require certain support or accommodations for them to successfully convey what they are saying, or digest what is being communicated to them. This is why it is key for neurotypical individuals to be educated on the differences and help in a positive and encouraging way.

Tips to Improve Communication 

Slow down 

We think it’s safe to say that we are all guilty of speaking too quickly. We are often overloaded with information and rush to convey that to others. So, it is good practice when communicating with all employees in the workplace to speak slowly. Incorporate pauses into your speaking and allow time for people to digest the information they are receiving. This also gives people an opportunity to ask for further clarification, if needed. 

Be clear 

How often have you been assigned a task with limited information? This can be frustrating for all of us. However, for those who are neurodiverse, this is even more challenging. When giving instructions, be clear and concise. It is important to avoid vague language or generic terms that may be interpreted the wrong way. Also, try to avoid forceful language such as “must” or “now” as this can often lead to anxiety and stress. When giving instructions, allow the opportunity for questions, and be open and understanding in answering. 

Consider different types of communication 

Depending on the individual, there may be certain types of communication that are more comfortable than others. In most instances, neurodiverse people prefer written communication as it is easier to digest, and they can revisit if needed. But remember to be clear and concise in your writing.  

Phone calls can often be challenging for neurodiverse individuals, especially if they are spontaneous or unplanned. Therefore, it is key to give ample time before a phone call to allow neurodiverse employees time to prepare accordingly.  

Online meetings, especially when they involve several people, can also be overwhelming. Therefore, allowing people to not use the camera, mute themselves as needed and offering a clear agenda of the meeting beforehand is helpful.  

Provide support 

If you are aware that an employee is neurodiverse, it is important to ask what they need. Since every person will be different in what they require to be successful, you can’t assume what works for one person, will work for the next. If you create a workspace that is understanding, educated, and supportive, you are more likely to encourage these conversations, and allow all your employees the opportunity to feel appreciated and valued. 

Communication is an ever-evolving process and, no matter the circumstances, we can all put in extra effort to help to cultivate an environment that is inclusive to everyone. 

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