Neuro-inclusive Leadership Program:
Neurodiversity | Inclusion | Psychological Safety

Friday 26 July 2024 Canberra ACT

Learn about neurodiversity – get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Reading Time: | Word Count:

The first few weeks, months or even years of education or training on any topic, let alone neurodiversity, can seem awkward and uncomfortable. Fortunately, as we progress through the stages of learning from being comfortable in our ignorance to the natural integration of what we have learned, the topic becomes more familiar, and we feel comfortable again.  

Most learning goes through the following four stages:

  1. Unconscious incompetence (comfortable)
  2. Conscious incompetence (awkward and uncomfortable)
  3. Conscious competence (awkward and uncomfortable)
  4. Unconscious competence[1] (comfortable)

I invite you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable for a little while and really learn about neurodiversity because the benefits for you, your workplace and society will start to stack up as more of us become unconsciously competent. Our neurodivergent colleagues, family and friends will feel more supported and comfortable bringing their whole selves to work and public spaces. Then, as a society, we will thrive with inclusion.

Let’s consider what this learning journey might look or feel like, so you know what you might expect.

Unconscious incompetence – you don’t know what you don’t know about neurodiversity

If this is the first you have read about neurodiversity, you are likely unconsciously incompetent. You may not know what it is, let alone what there is to know about neurodiversity. Please stay with me, you’ll probably be at the next stage by the end of this article.

Unconsciously incompetent can be a comfortable place. It is human nature to stay comfortable. But I promise you the rewards of learning about neurodiversity will be worth it.

Consciously incompetent – aware of the need to learn about neurodiversity

Maybe you had a ‘lunch and learn’ session at work, had a child diagnosed with autism, or stumbled upon my website looking for professional development training or a keynote speaker. However you heard about neurodiversity, I invite you to keep learning. This is often a space where we feel uncomfortable. The journey to understanding may feel big. Neurodiversity may feel ‘other’ or not relevant to you. You might know just enough to be aware of all your mistakes. 

It’s ok to make mistakes as you learn more. Your awareness of them shows you are growing. You wouldn’t expect to know everything about first aid after reading an article or going to a ‘lunch and learn’, would you? Neurodiversity is similar. There are many different forms of neurodivergence, and each person’s experience is different. The most important thing is to believe people’s lived experiences when they share them (even when they sound different from the book you read).

Consciously competent – knowing enough about neurodiversity to start taking action

You may start seeing your world slightly differently. Perhaps you begin gently calling out discriminatory language in the workplace, seeing small ways your team could be more inclusive, or even developing a better relationship with your neurodivergent spouse, child or colleague.  

You have learnt a lot, but it might feel new and clunky, aware of what you know and trying consciously to do the right thing in all the spaces. You are trying to be a self-aware manager or parent, supporting your neurodivergent team member to feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work or encouraging others to learn more. 

Consciously competent is where the discomfort starts to ease. The benefits of your awareness and efforts will begin to show. You are now contributing positively to the psychological safety and well-being of the neurodivergent people in your life and society.

Unconsciously competent – where cultural change around neurodiversity expands

Unconsciously competent is where cultural change happens. When you are unconsciously competent in your knowledge and understanding of neurodiversity, you have integrated your learnings into who you are. You know that every lived experience of neurodivergence is different, and there will be more to learn about neurodiversity as we understand it better. You behave supportively and inclusively without thinking about it. 

Your unconscious competence becomes a source of cultural change as you lead by example. Your team, family and community groups begin to thrive. I thank you for moving through the discomfort to become a change-maker. The world needs more of you. 

If this article has helped you progress to consciously incompetent on the topic of neurodiversity, please contact me to learn more about my training options and keynote speaker topics for your workplace or group to learn more together.


[1] De Phillips, Frank Anthony; Berliner, William M.; Cribbin, James J. (1960). “Meaning of learning and knowledge”Management of training programs. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin. p. 69.

Related posts