Communication is a funny thing. Even in the world of neurotypicals (NTs), people regularly misunderstand one another. And that’s just those that speak the same language. Autistic presentation in communication often seems to lead NTs to jump to the wrong conclusions. Verbosity for example, can be mistaken for anxiety by someone that doesn’t understand ASC, both in verbal and written communication. The tendency for people with autism not to always realise how the other party may view the communication, can also cause difficulties in communications between the parties. Sadly, with autism awareness being so low generally, there is no hope of a magic wand being waved that will make NTs think outside of the box that they are used to being in.
This can make it ultra hard for someone on the spectrum, who not only has to cognitively process their understanding of the communication in question, but to preempt how their communication may be perceived – or misperceived. Many people on the spectrum, have a processing delay, because of needing time to work all this out. It’s a minefield out there, as they say. Verbal communication is therefore usually the most challenging for us, and yet strangely, it is face-to-face communication where people tell me I come across best. Conversing with more than one person is that bit more challenging, because you are having to follow multiple strands of conversation and process multiple participant’s meanings. This means post-event, a feeling of exhaustion. So I do find it puzzling that this real me, apparently comes across better than I do by the written word.
Of course written communication has its own challenges, but verbosity (the middle name of many Aspies) is a natural state, and rattling off lengthy communications is no problem. However, NTs seem to take it for granted that language will be couched in softeners, floweriness and implications. They may be always bearing in mind how the other person receives their communication. Someone with ASC won’t be – or will be on an ongoing learning curve to achieve this and it can be hit and miss. So the direct and factual style of an Aspie/autie, can easily be misinterpreted as critical, attacking or making things personal. I am always surprised when people have taken things this way, as 99% of the time (we’re all allowed a grumble once in a while!) it was not my intention.
An Aspie will usually not be adept at, or naturally inclined to, communicating with hidden meanings, or using social tricks to get their meaning across or to achieve their goal. NTs seem to find this difficult to interpret, so they make assumptions that a straightforward communicating style is being aggressive. It puts someone on the spectrum at an immediate disadvantage, because then the NTs they are dealing with will form an opinion about them, which is usually negative. NTs seem not to know how to take a blunt Aspie, and judging by NT standards will usually leave an Aspie in an unfavourable light. We cannot change that, as NTs are the majority, it’s just one more thing that makes being an Aspie a challenge.
When miscommunication involves professionals, it can become fraught with difficulties. Professionals will already have, depending on their particular discipline, a tendency to their own professional biases and add human feelings, egos and tendency to assume, and it makes for one runaway train of miscommunication that can cause all sorts of problems. An Aspie is likely to assume that being factual and giving all the details, will get the other person to understand, but it doesn’t seem to work like that. I always think people will be grateful for the detail, as it gives them a very complete picture from which to take action or understand a situation. But NTs seem to get unnerved by what they view as a wall of information (I do punctuate!), from which they struggle to identify what is needed. I find that strange.
Recently, two people have told me they like the way I put things across in writing, which was nice to hear. They seemed to find my directness refreshing. It would be lovely if everyone felt the same way. People are often busy, and don’t have the time to read lengthy epistles, I get that. But sometimes, if they just took the time to read it and absorb it, it would save so much trouble later on. They tend to just file things, or perhaps skim read things, and then forget about them. Sometimes, spending that little bit of time in the beginning, and asking any questions right then, avoids all sorts of miscommunications and difficulties later.
Don’t we deserve to have a little understanding and accommodation in communication? Why is the autistic person always expected to understand how NTs communicate and try to fit into that way (which let’s face it, if your brain is not wired that way is never going to be easy), why can’t NTs think a little more openly and not prejudge? If someone has a visible disability, such as being in a wheelchair, NTs will automatically supply the adjustments needed, such as opening doors for them or providing access ramps. Is it so much to ask that instead of jumping to conclusions, NTs that know of your condition, will make a few little adjustments for you?
I think one of the hardest aspects, is the NT tendency to gossip about you behind your back when your Aspie behaviours are being misjudged by them. Even professionals do it. They already want to pathologise and label everything as it is, so when they come into contact with someone with autism, they misconstrue and label the traits a certain way, usually unfavourably. When you are in a family situation, that can cause a lot of problems and lead to much barking up the wrong tree. This is why, I always go back to autism awareness, and how lack of it across the board, causes many problems for those on the spectrum.
So this adjacent message, represents the written word particularly and how even among NTs, people can misunderstand – imagine how much worse that is for someone on the spectrum? So my final note here, is this quote:
“The majority of dysfunctions that arise and entrench themselves in our lives are caused because of preconditioned expectations and assumptions”
~ Ly De Angeles