Lorin Neikirk, Shanti Perez and I were on Blog Talk Radio Tuesday, discussing Aspies and romantic relationships. In fact, we Aspies can also use much of it to get along better with friends, co-workers and others.
Lorin had an excellent point: Yes, we Aspies need honest, detailed feedback because we have difficulty getting hints. With that comes the responsibility to make clear, in our words and actions, that we can take criticism well. If we're going to expect the other person to take the time and emotional effort to go outside his/her comfort zone and deliver honest criticisms - not personal attacks, but clear statements of the facts and his/her feelings about them - we need to reinforce that.
We don't need to agree with everything that's being said, but we do need to listen carefully, as well as we can, to both the details and the feelings behind them. For example, if your significant other says that you never show up on time, that may or may not be factually true. But what is true is that you're not showing up on time often enough to please him/her, and that is itself important.
As always, accommodation is a two-way street. If we expect people to go out of his/her way for us regarding our distinctive strengths and challenges, the least we can do is make it as easy as possible for them.
Shanti made an excellent point about body language. Body language is sometimes ambiguous and difficult to interpret correctly, especially for us Aspies. Different people may mean different things by the same gestures.
For example, one person's nervous fidgeting may mean "I don't like being around this person and I want to leave soon." Another person's same nervous fidgeting could mean "I really like this person and I want to be sure s/he likes me back and if s/he doesn't I'll feel so bad."
As I mentioned on the show, we need to do the best we can to interpret body language in light of what the person is also saying. Words are often more precise than body language and we can better directly responded to words, so verbal discussion can resolve ambiguities in nonverbal signals. It's best for us to put the other person on notice that we tend to rely on verbal discussion because of our weaknesses in reading nonverbal signals.
Of course, having done that we should always do whatever we can to understand what our partners are saying in the ways they find most comfortable.
Last but certainly not least, let's never assume our own moods, needs and desires are crystal-clear without describing them in so many words.
What do you think?
PS: This is our two-month blogoversary. I'd say we've done quite a bit in our short time here so far, and we've got more great stuff coming down the pike. Stay tuned!
Hour 4: What do you want? Look at your goals.
9 years ago