Aspie communication

SMALL TALK

Aspies are often exact, practical and economical with their words. Social chitchat and talking just to talk, seems to most of us like an awful waste of energy and time. When we talk and socialise, we usually want to exchange relevant and useful information for it to feel meaningful and worth the effort.

Of the Levels of Communication (phatic, factual, evaluative, gut-level and peak communication) most Aspies seem to prefer factual and abhor phatic. Many go directly to gut-level even with strangers, without passing through the other stages – which is often appreciated with other Aspies but generally seen as inappropriate with non-autistics.

“Sometimes I can carry on small talk, but it is irritating. For me it is a real effort and I have to concentrate on it as hard as if I was doing an upper level math problem. the result is that it is draining and I am glad to get away from it.

“Idle chat with strangers also makes me uncomfortable and is something of a waste of time. Talking to them doesn’t make the time pass any faster, and the odds I will learn anything useful from them are about the same as my seeing them again.”

William, Aspie from USA

“In my opinion, small talk is the bureaucracy of relationship and conversation. It’s a load of verbal red tape that everybody uses but nobody needs.”

‘Caltec’, male Aspie

This video may illustrate what most aspies think of small talk:

When an Aspie asks a question, it is usually not to be polite, but because he/she really wants to know; e.g. if you bake something delicious, you will only be asked for the recipe when the Aspie actually intends to use it. If an Aspie asks how you are, s/he is probably genuinely interested, and may therefore (initially) not understand that others may ask the same thing without being interested. So don’t ask an Aspie unless you really want to know!

“I’ve been told the answer to ‘how are you?’ is meant to be ‘fine’, but if I don’t feel fine – I’m not going to say I’m fine!”

Julie, Aspie from England

“When my psychiatrist called and asked ‘how are you?’ I said: should I say ‘fine’? That would be a bit absurd when I’ve been trying to reach you…”

Mardröm’, male Aspie from Sweden

“I don’t ask back how people are after they ask me. I find the question bothersome/silly… like ‘Hi! How ARE you?!’ Who the heck cares how anyone is when you’re just saying hello. I’m don’t always want to know how people are anyway.”

‘Hyper’, Aspie from Sweden

COMPLIMENTS

Empty compliments are not something that will impress an Aspie. We usually only give compliments we really mean, and therefore expect the same from others. We may also have a very different opinion on what is worth complimenting on…

“When people compliment me, it is usually for things that are easy to me and come as second nature. In the same way that I find it annoying to accept compliments for how blue my eyes are, I find it annoying for people to compliment me on the fact that I have created and managed a database of over 15,000 names for work. Anybody could do it, and EVERYBODY in the office is SUPPOSED to be doing it. It’s part of their job description. But no one is getting off their rear ends to contribute to the thing, no one knows how to use it, and the fact is, the reason they compliment me is so that they can ask ME to look up data for them that they ought to be finding themselves but are too incompetent to do.

“I am happy to receive praise for things that I have done which are extremely difficult tasks, such as smiling when I am not inclined to, but no one compliments me for THAT.”

Tom, adult Aspie from USA

“Hmm. It is difficult with compliments I think. Of course you should be honest and say what you think to others. But then it ought to come spontaneously, and that you can do to anyone, not just to those you like. May be problematic if compliments become too many or too exaggerated and saying things just to impress, that makes me sick.”

Jessica, Aspie from Sweden

PROMISES & AGREEMENTS

These are things most Aspies take very seriously. If you’re not 100% sure you’ll be able to come at precisely 3 o’clock, don’t promise that you will. Say that you may come ‘between 3 and 4’ – but then do not arrive at 2:53 or 4:07! And don’t say ‘Oh, we must meet for lunch one day soon,’ unless you intend to actually do so.

FRANKNESS

Typical of ASD people is to more or less lack pretence & ‘social acting skills’ (what others might call ‘social finesse’). Though some eventually learn this, many are unable or unwilling to hide their true feelings and thoughts, and may thus display likes & dislikes, pleasure & pain, sadness & joy, envy & love, self-satisfaction & self-loathing, with the frankness and spontaneity of a child.

What can be quite astonishing is that some of those rare individuals with combined diagnoses of AS and narcissism or antisocial personality disorder may volunteer this information quite freely and display rather than hide socially taboo feelings and thoughts.

“I’ve realised that my cluster B disorder always will create enormous problems in social relations and make me practically an outlaw so I blame my problems on AS and keep to myself. (…) What I’d really want is to be a controversial celebrity who makes headlines and gets death threats. I want to fight with everyone, provoke, create kaos. That’s my motivation in life. Without this possibility I feel empty. My life lacks meaning if I can’t be in the spotlight and provoke.”

Josef1, young adult with AS and narcississtic personality disorder from Sweden

For an Aspie it is natural, when asked a question, to answer it as truthfully – and often as extensively – as possible. Some can produce a white lie or withhold facts if absolutely necessary, but many need to prepare for such events in advance. Lying spontaneously does not come natural to most of us, unless that person also has antisocial or sociopath traits or other problems, or feels compelled to improvise out of character from fear of punishment.

“I’m not very good at lying, and not very fond of having to do so either. If I know I’m going to get a certain question, I can prepare and make up a lie, but lying in real time is not one of my stronger points.”

Tobias, Aspie from Sweden

“Autistic people tend to have difficulty lying because of the complex emotions involved in deception. I become extremely anxious when I have to tell a little white lie on the spur of the moment. To be able to tell the smallest fib, I have to rehearse if many times in my mind. I run video simulations of all the different things the other person might ask. If the other person comes up with an unexpected question, I panic.”

Temple Grandin, HFA author and engineer from USA

So, if you only want emotional reassurance and don’t really want to know how you look in this or that garment, don’t ask an Aspie “How do I look?” If you feel nervous and insecure, just say so, and you may get genuine sympathy for it.

Aspie communication rules are very simple: say what you mean and mean what you say!

When those who have a direct communicating style try to communicate with those who have a non-direct style, it is only natural that there will be misunderstandings and bad feelings on both sides. Perhaps we can learn from each other when communicating across our respective cultural borders? Non-Aspies might learn to be more open, direct and true to their word around Aspies, and Aspies might learn to be more tactful around non-Aspies? (Some of us do learn this, eventually.)

ASPIE-TO-ASPIE COMMUNICATION

Many Aspies and autistics don’t have much problem communicating with others on the spectrum. This to me indicates that our communication difficulties are mainly due to an innate difference rather than to something wrong with our brains. Our difficulties seem to be more of a cultural kind; like coming to a foreign country and not knowing the language or social codes there.

“I’ve often needed to prepare all sorts of possibly developments a conversation could take, in order to be able to give a good reply. For me this is connected to the NT communication style. It’s not accepted to make a comment five minutes after a discussion, when you’ve realised something new about the subject. You have to constantly think in real-time, which doesn’t work since I continually translate from non-verbal to verbal.  When I instead communicate with Aspies, it works differently. It is not seen as inappropriate to bring back a 5 minutes old thread and the conversation does not have to continue in an even flow.”

Leif, male with Aspie traits from Sweden

ONLINE COMMUNICATION

Aspies often find communicating online much easier:

· It allows one to focus only on the words themselves, eliminates sensory distractions and the stress that the physical presence of another human being tends to create. It means not having to waste time & energy on adding correct body language, facial expression, tone of voice etc. to the equation. Online, one uses only words & smileys to convey a message. If one is not sure how to interpret something, one simply asks for clarification.

“It’s a lot easier for me to communicate via writing – no eye contact required :)”

Rachele, Aspie from USA

· It gives one enough time to read, re-read, ponder and think up a reply which one has time to phrase with desired precision.

“I like to receive written correspondance because I can go through it repeatedly. I can also internalize it much better that I can fleeting words in a conversation.”

Tom, Aspie from USA

“Typing is a bit more tiresome than talking, but it has the advantage of allowing one to phrase things just how you want them.”

William, Aspie from USA

· It makes it easier to communicate deep & delicate matters without embarrassment.

“I find I can write thoughts that I would never say directly to a person.”

‘Rainbow’, Aspie from USA

· It enables nonverbal autistics to communicate without need for vocalisation.

I was nonverbal for several years (it hurt to use my voice) and started feeling very isolated after a couple of years. Getting a computer solved this problem. I could then exchange ideas with people from all over the world without having to strain my voice and overtax myself physically.

Ing, site-author

BOOKS

Thinking In Pictures: and Other Reports from My Life with Autism

Communication Issues In Autism And Asperger Syndrome: Do We Speak The Same Language?

42 Comments »

  1. Karen said,

    You have a typo in the first sentence of this page. “Aspies are often exaxt.” Should be “exact.”

    Couldn’t help it, sorry! 🙂

    • Karen said,

      Forgot to leave this video:

      • Ing said,

        Thanks for the video and the proof reading. I’ve corrected it now.

      • martha said,

        OMgosh…This is so me… but I have had to overcome so very much so now I am different outwardly but inwardly still the same. I am now just within the past few years getting answers. This is so very helpful. Thank you.

  2. charlotte14 said,

    Hi, I’ll just get to the point – do you have any tips on how to ask out a guy with Asperger’s? I’ve been posting that question in loads of places and I always get the same answer (Don’t go out with him)! I genuinely fancy him and I’m determined to ask him out. How should a neurotypical with not much aspie-knowledge do it?

    • Frog said,

      An aspie will likely have interests just like anyone else. As with anyone else just ask them what they are interested in, they are normal people who have weakness in attention and focus on certain matters but not others. All people are different so as with all relationships learn about your partner and try to understand them, only in this world do we segregate for small differences in behaviour, people are people underneath.

    • PrymalDark said,

      As Frog said, find out the persons interests, and explore them.

      Be Direct. Subtle cues may not be interpreted in the way that you intend or expect.

      Be Precise. “Would you like to go to with me at ” is much more easily analyzed and considered than “Would you like to hang out some time”.

      Be Honest. NT individuals may prefer to be lied to rather than have their feelings hurt, but myself, and I suspect many Aspies, would rather hear the truth. Personally, I will write people off once I learn that they have a habit of lying to me.

      For myself, there are many times I would like to speak to individuals. I find it hard to find a place to begin the conversation, and hard to keep the conversation going. I have had many experiences where something that I thought was relevant to the topic of discussion, and very interesting, was interpreted by NT’s as boring.

      Many times people have complained about the length of my story, or failed to see the connection to their topic as I do. After awhile, these get to a person, and the desire to contribute declines. I can try to remain attentive even when a persons words seem boring to me, but if they are not willing to show me the same courtesy, I will quickly lose interest in the conversation and/or individual.

      I function much better in social situations as a follower. Ask me direct questions, even open ended questions, and I can discuss almost anything. I will tell you if I have little or no experience with a topic, or if my information is speculation. I can pose follow up questions, but generally can not lead a conversation for long. Too many times being ridiculed for saying something ‘completely unrelated’, which seemed directly related in my mind, quickly inhibits a desire to share.

    • Merl said,

      Just ask him out! Say would you like to go out with me sometime? He’ll take it literally, and if he knows you will probably find the idea of someone who wants his company appealing. The biggest plight of the Aspie is loneliness. It will probably make his day.

  3. Dana said,

    hi, i’ve bee self-Diagnosed to be an Aspie, i’m 15 years old i did some tests on it and and i got 100 of 200 being an Aspie, but my teacher told that i should consult professionals, because since i’m a teen and hormones kicks in and stuff, but my mom and dad don’t care and don’t actually believe or understand being an Aspie means, and idk any advices? i can communicate via twitter or facebook

    • The Vegetarian Aspie said,

      Hello! c: I’m afraid that self-diagnosis isn’t very trustworthy. You aren’t a professional and have little-to-no life experience. I suggest you seek a professional diagnosis as soon as possible, so that you’re sure. Online tests are unreliable and untrustworthy, therefore you shouldn’t trust the results that you score online. There are many disorders that are similiar to Asperger’s Syndrome, so you could easily have any one of them. If you are indeed an Aspie, I do have some advice for you. c:

      – Remember that every individual with Asperger’s Syndrome is different. Autism is a spectrum, not a single disorder, and it doesn’t really have clear symptoms. Some Aspie’s can be extremely intelligent and eccentric, some can be socially awkward and somewhat detached, some can be charismatic and excitable. It all depends on the individual.

      – Figure out what cause you stress and find a way to eliminate them or get around them. Do cloths bother you? Smells? Temperature? People? You need to figure these things out and find ways for you to deal with them, otherwise life is going to be quite difficult.

      – If you struggle socially, seek professional help in order to improve your verbal/physical communication. That’s what I did, and it really did help!

      – Do not take medication for it! I know many people suggest it, but it isn’t a good idea. It’ll just make everything more difficult.

      – Don’t be ashamed. You’re a normal-functioning human being. There isn’t anything wrong with you and nobody has the right to tell you otherwise. You’re wonderful and individual and you’re gonna do awesome in life as long as you give everything all you’ve got. 🙂 Good luck.

    • Ing said,

      Sorry for the very late reply.

      As I wrote on the start page, I do not have time to maintain this website and am not an online support. I just made a website with information that I felt was lacking in the public and professional awareness (at the time that I wrote it).

      I hope you got some help and perhaps a proper evaluation? Online tests are notoriously unreliable.

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  6. db said,

    hi,

    I have an aspie boyfriend who is currently what I believe a shutdown. We spoke on the phone on Sunday laughing and joking he said he’d call Monday night but he didn’t so I tried ringing Tuesday and he ignored my calls and said he was in a meeting at work. He also said he needed space. on Wednesday I was confused and asked if if there was anybody else he said no and that he needed space and then he can talk. on Thursday I text him and told him I wanted him to use the money he owed me £400 to go counselling as he stopped because he couldn’t afford it but I had no thanks or a reply. Friday I text him to say I was thinking of him and asked if he still wanted to see me saterday but had no reply. Can you please tell me if this is normal aspie behavior? We were fine before that and I have tried to be understanding but I know he is talking to everyone but me.

    Thanks

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