Looking Down on Someone

At these types of events, everyone is looking down at me, and I’m looking up to them.

I’m so excited to be included in the next leadership event.  I get a schedule of activities a few weeks before the event and make sure I have the right attire for each activity.  The first event is a Happy Hour at one of the most prestigious restaurants in New York.  My heart drops.  I hate Happy Hours.

I use a wheelchair full-time, and almost every Happy Hour I’ve attended is a collection of high top tables beautifully decorated with waiters walking around to collect drink orders.  There are few low tables, and even if there are, most people stand so they can walk around and mingle.  I sit in my wheelchair and attempt to do the same, but it’s not fun.

At these types of events, everyone is looking down at me, and I’m looking up to them.  It’s a literal statement but there’s an underlying subliminal message that comes with a person looking down at me, and I believe that message can be received by both people in the conversation.  

After the event is over, I wonder how people view me.  Does their height immediately give them an impression that they are ‘stronger, more dominant, or more important’ than me?  It feels that way to me.

The phrase “looking down on someone” is very real for me.  I can hardly hear in these situations, others can hardly hear me, and, to add some humor, the views from down below are less than ideal.

The times when someone squats down next to me are memorable, and I feel respected.  I hate it that someone has to squat for me – it can’t be easy – and they shouldn’t have to do that either.

If Happy Hours are the last event in the day, I often find myself being the first to retreat to bed.  Both because I am a natural introvert, but mostly because I simply want to be on the same level, and I’m just not.

So how can YOU help?  Well, if you’re an event organizer, be sure there are sufficient low tables, and preferably all low tables.  And if you’re an attendee, when you are speaking to someone who is shorter than you, whether they use a wheelchair or are just not as tall, find a low table or a chair to sit on with them.  Bring yourself to the same level, because if we can all work at the same level, the results after Happy Hour will be that much more powerful and carry forward in future work interactions.  We are a team, and the psychological messages we send to each other are so powerful in producing results together.

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