As sometimes happens, two recent observations, one from my sister, another from a FB friend, coincided to get me struggling to answer. In response to something I said jokingly about my Aspergers’ excusing my social clumsiness, my sister, also jokingly I hope – her tone of voice suggested it anyway – replied, “So you use that as your “get out of gaol free card, do you?” I think she was half serious, although it was asked with genuine affection and understanding so I gave it the consideration it deserved. Hold this thought as I shall come back to it.
My FB friend told me that he’d observed some people he knows with AS or ASD can make comments on FB from lack of empathy that then attract annoyed responses from neurotypicals (our label for non-Aspies) who don’t know enough about the condition. He wondered if there was a way of addressing this to mutual benefit and if so, would I write about it. Let me first state that Aspies are as unalike from each other as neurotypicals are amongst themselves. There are too many other variables. Both my husband and I have diagnoses, but are as alike and unalike as any other couple drawn to each other by both similarities and complementary attributes. Also that since Aspergers is a distinct condition from ASD as defined in European medical manuals, but part of the same condition as defined in the American one, I’ll simply stick to Aspergers here. It won’t make much difference to what I shall write, as you will see if you read on.
Now recall my opening paragraph. If you analyse what I wrote, you’ll see that I didn’t “feel” what my sister meant, I analysed it through observation and my understanding, and that is how I manage to rub along with people. It is hard work, but I reckon it is worth it. It takes a lot out of me. A neurotypical friend who has oodles of this weird thing called “empathy” tells me she knows it must be exhausting to do it my way, but then tells me she also finds being so empathic exhausts her, so I am not totally convinced there is a huge difference. And this is where the jury is out. Do Aspies lack empathy, or actually have too much to the extent it overwhelms them and they blurt out the first thing that comes to mind? Either way, the result is neurotypicals often perceive us as blunt and rude, as often, indeed we appear. Our condition isn’t an excuse, but it is a reason. Once you know the reason though, you can address it if you’d like to help. If you don’t want to, or don’t feel up to it, ignore and walk away. Don’t respond in a like way. You won’t win against someone who doesn’t even understand their own self and will simply feel frustrated or hurt yourself.
Well, that’s my analytical take on how you might feel, anyway. And this is where I ask myself, is my advice on dealing with perceived rudeness from us Aspies any different to how I’d handle anyone, with or without Aspergers? No, it isn’t. Rudeness nearly always stems from a lack of understanding of self, from a feeling of being disrespected, unliked, misunderstood. Don’t we ALL want to be respected, liked and accepted? OK, sometime rudeness can also stem from a sense of self-entitlement, at extremes, narcissism, but to my mind that’s simply another condition that needs understanding and managing, both by the person involved and the other party. If you do wish to address a nasty comment, why not ask them why they made it in such an aggressive manner and could they elaborate on their logical reasons for making it. Engage and explore. In my experience this works in most cases, Aspie or “neurotypical” – whatever that is. Who the hell is neurotypical anyway? Who wants to be neurotypical? Sounds boring to me. You either get through or you don’t. If you do, the outcome is rewarding to yourself. You have helped someone who couldn’t communicate the way they really wanted, you have connected. Enjoy that feeling. If you don’t get through, then walk away knowing you tried.