The professor and the other students in the class stared at me, appalled. In true Aspie style, I had directly expressed my complete and total disagreement with the lecturer’s statement.
Fortunately, that professor was open-minded and willing to listen to counter-statements, but in many classes that outburst would have netted me a failing mark for the semester. People in general, and especially those in positions of authority like professors and managers, supervisors and bosses often do not like to hear dissenting opinions.
As Aspies, while we need not ever remain silent when we have an opinion which we wish to express, it is important that we express it in a manner which is most likely to be effective.
Consider this: If your response is considered confrontational, it is likely that the listener will simply shut down and shut you out. Would it not be more advantageous to encourage the listener to engage in dialogue with you?
So what is the most effective way of NOT agreeing with someone’s statement, and at the same time putting forward your own questions about their position?
A friend of mine, when he was in university learned to say, “It seems to me…” This allowed him to advance his own opinion without either directly agreeing or disagreeing. The beauty of this opening is that it allows for the advancing of a personal point of view along with evidence that backs up that point of view, in a non-threatening fashion.
“It became a sort of a trademark of mine,” he said. “And it helped me navigate my way through some pretty touchy conversations.”
I have also heard of a very successful person who, when questioning practices in the workplace, would use lead-ins such as “I wonder…” and “I’ve noticed…”
This is a far less abrasive approach than exclaiming “No!”, or saying something like “Why do you do it that way?” or “Shouldn’t you …?” Both of which are considered excessively confrontational by non-Aspies. (Go figure!)
When you convey your position in a non-threatening fashion it allows the listener to ask to have it clarified, to assimilate it, consider it, and perhaps ultimately, even to change their position.
Do you believe that being kind could relieve anxiety? Researchers Jennifer Trew and Lynn Alden of the University of British Columbia might have suspected this was a possibility.
Recently the two did an experiment involving 115 socially anxious university students. The students were divided into three groups. Each group had a different directive.
The first group of students were required to perform 3 acts of kindness two days a week for four weeks.
The acts of kindness included activities like washing a room mate’s dishes, mowing a neighbour’s lawn and donating to charity.
The second group was required to insert themselves into a social situation (after taking several deep breaths to calm them down). These insertions could include actions like asking a stranger for the time, or asking someone to lunch.
The third group? Was asked to journal about personal events.
At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that people in the first group had less instances of avoiding social interaction due to fear of rejection.
This makes sense to me, since asking someone to lunch, someone you don’t know very well seems somewhat risky in terms of the possibility of being rejected, whereas asking your room mate if she’d like you to do her dishes? Is hardly a thing anyone would say ‘no’ to. And the room mate is likely to look more favorably on you after you’ve cleaned up her scullery debris, whereas the person you asked to lunch? Might be avoiding you so they don’t have to let you down again.
So, Aspies, to improve your sense of social connectedness and ease your way into social situations, try an act of kindness. Why not?
Then you can work your way up to asking the recipients of your kindness out to lunch.
c) Autism was described by Dr. Hans Asperger in 1944. Some sources say that a Russian doctor reported similar symptomology in 1926, but Asperger’s work is often recognized as the first definitive work on the subject. Because he was Austrian and published only in the German language around the time of WWII his work was not immediately recognized. In 1984 a Brit, Dr. Lorna Wing introduced the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” in a research paper.
d) The syndrome was added to the DSM-IV in 1994.
b) Dr. Hans Asperger. His birthday, February 18th, has been designated Asperger’s Day in some areas.
b) Today, experts tend to see Asperger’s children as outside the autism spectrum, since the DSM-V states that children with autism exhibit delayed speech and more severe symptoms. Speech delay is sometimes seen is crucial for achieving access to funding for treatment under the autism spectrum umbrella.
d) All of the above.
True: Children with Asperger’s often have a fairly large vocabulary and talk a lot on one topic that interest them. In fact, according to Wikipedia’s account of Dr. Asperger’s childhood, it seems he was one of us. Apparently he loved the work of a particular poet and would often quote reams of poetry to uninterested companions.
c) Flat aspect. Frozen masks come from Disney Studios.
c) Neurotypical: This term is said to denote ‘normal’. I’m okay with that.
d) All of the above.
For me, here in the lower mainland, these are the societies: BC Autism Society; SOS BC Parent Driven Autism Services; BC Families with Autism. The links to these organizations are as follows:
Being praised for being smart can unwittingly lead bright kids to a downward learning spiral.
So says Mary Loftus in an April 2013 Psychology Today article; Smooth Encounters.
Loftus suggests kids who are told they are bright may not put in as much effort, thinking things should come naturally to them.
This can lead to poor results which can make them doubt their ability.
Praise effort, Loftus suggests. Praising the work leading up to the brilliant report or impressive project is often more helpful for the child seeking reassurance. Praise persistence. Praise performance. Remind the child of obstacles overcome.
This kind of praise leads to intellectual and social success.
It’s SMALL. Bytes of conversation as opposed to megabytes or gigabytes.
Keeping it short and impersonal can be challenging when you’re longing to express thoughts and ideas you have harboured inside yourself for so long that they are bursting to come out. But you must manage your conversations, especially when you are first meeting someone.
Remember: Bytes. Little. Little bits of conversation.
When you are first introduced to someone? This is not the time to tell them about your fascination with engineering systems, national infrastructure or energetic reactions. Save those conversations for networking meetings or gatherings of people with similar interests.
Socially? Small talk is for when you first meet someone. It’s a time to establish a safe conversational zone for both you and the person who is the object of your conversation.
Topics? The weather. Recent outings or vacations. Current events. Popular movies.
If the other person takes you deeper into their personal life, political or religious persuasion, fine, let them go on.
But rein yourself in. Keep your conversation pleasant, interested and attentive. Excuse yourself politely if you feel you must escape them.
I was born with Asperger’s so I had markedly different ideas and behaviours from the average girl, and definitely from my mother and father.
In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger’s Teen, I talk a lot about the lack of relationship between myself and my parents. That sense of disconnection, the feeling that I was some sort of interloper.
At the time, in my teens, I thought Mom’s ideal daughter would have enjoyed sewing, crocheting, baking bread with her, and sharing her enthusiasm for Woman’s Day magazine. I was into classical music, movies like Lawrence of Arabia, poetry, Shakespeare and boys.
Was I right about Mom? I’m not so sure.
My mother’s house was always dusty, rather untidy. She went out to work, you see, when few mothers did, straining in the steaming heat of the Empress Laundry or cleaning low-rent motel rooms.
Once you’ve been out to work, you’ll never want to stay home again, she told me in a rare moment of mother-daughter confidence.
And of course the housework had to be done by someone. And as the eldest daughter by nearly eight years, naturally that lot fell to me and to my grandmother. I talk about that in Unforgiving, too. About how I just took these duties for granted.
What did Mom want? Just a daughter who didn’t talk so loud? Who didn’t speak out of turn? Who could get a job and keep it?
The truth is, I will never know. Relationships are complicated.
Deeper into my adulthood, Mom and I came a little closer. When she got Alzheimer’s? After Dad died she came to live with us.
Goodnight, Mom, she’d say as I tucked her into bed.
She had forgotten I was her daughter. All she knew was that I was someone who lovingly tucked her in at night.
Maybe that’s all we needed to know about each other.
In a Psychology Today April 2013 article titled Father and Son, Aspies Alike author John Elder Robison describes the pitfalls of two generations under one roof having Aspergers.
His son, Jack, was fascinated by ‘energetic reactions’ in chemistry. This meant that he liked building experimental things that depended on explosive reactions. Things like rockets. Other chemical formulations that he set to explode in the field behind their house.
John Robison knew that his son Jack was uploading instructional videos of his experiments to You Tube. But it never occurred to him, as it might to some non-Aspie parents, that this might attract some undue attention.
In Jack’s case, it was the FBI FTA branch.
Jack was not charged with any offence and his brush with the law proved innocent enough.
But maybe it’s better when you’re seeking an outside opinion? To ask someone who isn’t an Aspie.
John Robison’s books include Raising Cubby, Be Different and Look Me In the Eye. His son, Jack, along with Jack’s friends Alex Plank, founder of You Tube’s Wrong Planet, have created a series of videos about Autism issues.
I’m alone in a roomful of people–people I don’t know!
And I want to make a good impression. What do I do now?
In Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I talk about the gaffs I made at a dinner especially arranged to introduce me to some theater people. I really wish I ‘d had Dr. Carducci’s book and Jeffrey’s videos back then! These two experts on small talk really know how to ace a social situation.
You’ve just listened to Jeffrey’s video. He’s a guy who’s given more than 3,000 presentations and met many people. His comfort level with strangers is very high. But even he says it takes practice.
Dr. Bernardo Carducci is head of The Shyness Institute at Indiana University South East, so he has a lot of research behind his book,The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk; How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere about Anything.
Like Dr. Bernardo Carducci, Jeffrey Benjamin says step up and introduce yourself to someone standing near you.
Don’t interrupt a conversation to do that. Just find someone who is standing alone and go for it.
This is called breaking the ice and while to an Aspie it can feel just as dangerous as falling into freezing water on the skating pond, practising this manoeuvre will make it less stressful each time.
Both experts say listen. Listening in this sense, means being able to repeat back key phrases of what the other person has just said.
Repeating back a brief summary or phrase tells the other person you truly are listening, not just waiting for a pause in the conversation so you can jump in with your favourite topic. Listening like this also keeps you on topic mentally.
Benjamin actually says Listen more, talk less. This is the best advice anyone can give, and probably the hardest for an Aspie to follow. Discipline yourself.
Benjamin’s last item? Be positive. Dragging negativity around is not only pointless? It’s also terribly boring. Bring a positive attitude to the party. After all, you got invited didn’t you?
Why perfect the art of small talk? The ability to to communicate socially on what may seem to Aspies to be the art of meaningless chit chat?
First, for your physical health. That’s right! Dr. Dean Ornish cardiologist and author of Reversing Heart Disease says this:
“being able to initiate and maintain relationships is integral to heart health.”
He goes on to explain: “being able to interact meaningfully in a reciprocal relationship with another human being relieves stress and the feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
Isolated? In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I show how I felt that way a lot, and how damaging it was to me socially to be unable to connect with my peer group as well as my parents and elders. As Aspies, I’m sure we all know what those feelings are like.
And the second reason to learn small talk? Because it’s the key that opens the door to successful social relationships. It seems meaningless, but on the contrary: it’s important!
Small talk is the way people conversationally explore their comfort zone with the other person.
It’s where you and the other person communicate briefly about the world you both live in before deciding if it’s desirable or even safe to go into further fields of conversation.
Initially? Keep it small, keep it light, and get connected. Ultimately, small talk is good for the heart and good for your mental and emotional health.