Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Transparency, Investments and Relationships

My friend Lorin Neikirk recently posted on the abstract side about transparency in relationships. That's gotten me thinking.

At least in the U.S., transparency in business investments has been a major issue. (Have you checked out the Dow, or your portfolio, lately? Like maybe in the last few hours?)

Relationship investments are often just as important as any financial matter. (How many songs have you heard lately mourning falling stock prices or 401(k)s?) Yet we don't have a Sarbanes-Oxley Act equivalent for personal relationships.

(Let's be honest - that's what we autists and Aspies do best - how many of us would still be walking free if there were? Raise your hand....*crickets chirping*)

Wouldn't it be nice if we had, say, personal prospectuses we could give others we were considering being friends with, or dating, to let them know a bit about what makes us tick? Especially if we react to certain things differently from the majority of people? That way, not only would we be treating the other person fairly, but also we may be able to avoid people's misinterpreting our words or actions. Letting people know our unique strengths and challenges in advance is what people call "self-interest rightly understood".

Each of us can write a "social sheet" detailing our particular vulnerabilities. We should also add our special strengths, so it doesn't look like we're just seeking accommodations and special exceptions. Strengths that are intertwined with our vulnerabilities count for double.

For example, if you tend to be blunt - like probably most of us - you should let that be known in advance and explain that it's not personal, but just a focus on the facts. That way, a potential friend or date will be less likely to interpret a mere statement of fact (like "This food stinks" or "I didn't really have a good time tonight") as a personal attack. At the same time, emphasize how honest you are - we've all had enough of pathological liars and truth-twisters, so many people will appreciate that at least they'll always know how things are with regard to you.

(Also try to minimize the impact as much as you can, like "This food stinks...a real contrast to the company!" or "I didn't really have a good time I'd like to try again some other time and I'm sure we'll have fun" - with disclaimers that are true expressions of opinion, that is. The idea is that you don't want the other person to think that your having a problem with one thing means you have a problem with them if it's not true.)

If you feel comfortable doing so, start off by saying you're an Aspie or autist. Be prepared to explain a bit about what it means. You might even group your characteristics according to the Aspie traits they stem from, such as short-term memory issues, difficulty multitasking, honesty/bluntness, etc. Again, if at all possible try to have strengths as well as vulnerabilities in each group.

Now, do use caution. Don't reveal too much to someone you're just starting to know. Remember, acquaintances, dates and friends can turn into strangers and even enemies. If and when that happens you don't want them carrying around too intimate a portrait of your thoughts.

Meanwhile, Sharon daVanport - an Aspie herself and mom to an Aspie teen - has given us an excellent listing of Resources for Aspies, Families & Educators. Not everything on there is for everybody, but if you're reading this there's probably something there for you. Check it out!

What do you think?


StatMom said...

Officially my favorite post thus far. The prospectus idea rocks.

Mama Mara said...

What do I think? I think you are brilliant, as always. It would be great if people had personal prospecti available, but I wonder how many people would disclose full, accurate and unbiased information about themselves. Having dated (and married) people who think honesty is optional, I doubt people would give the transparency I need. What I really need is a bullsh*t meter to tip me off when I can't see that I'm being lied to or manipulated. Or maybe a dating broker who could choose dating investments on my behalf.

No wonder I've stopped dating altogether.

As for declaring one's aspie/autist status off the bat: does that scare women away before they have a chance to get to know you? Or does it simply weed out the women who aren't worth getting to know in the first place?

Jeff Deutsch said...

StatMom - Thank you very much!

Mara - First things first. I assume that you meant "you" in the generic sense, not the specific second person sense. Not scaring off women hasn't been a concern for me for years and I don't expect it to ever be a concern again.

More broadly, I think many Aspie behaviors are more likely to scare people - perhaps especially women - off than the explanation for them. We've got more awareness of autism and AS these days, and I think a clear explanation in a relaxing setting can really help.

Whether or not other people are honest, a social sheet can benefit the giver, partly by, as you say, weeding out people who are too easily scared off.

For an Aspie, it's an excellent chance to explain possible problems so the other person won't misunderstand them when they crop up.

In any case, if handled well they can really impress the other person, by showing one's self-knowledge and sensitivity. Remember, an important goal of social sheets is addressing how one's behavior can affect others.

Incidentally, we've always had dating brokers. They're called mutual friends. (I might add that I always did my own investments.)

Hope you had a great vacation!

Jeff Deutsch

Roia said...

Actually, I believe there are paid dating brokers in various foreign countries (apparently love does not make the world go 'round?). Hm, didn't they have one in "Fiddler on the Roof"?

But I digress...

It's an interesting thought, Jeff, to have a one-sheet (so to speak) describing one's social self. I think you said this was for friends as well as for potential mates and/or dates. With friends the investment (since we're using that terminology anyway) is sort of different than with people we're interested in dating. Friends, I think, are more tolerant of social differences than lovers are.

I guess what I'm getting at is, while it sounds like a nifty idea on one level, I'm not sure, for myself that I'd be any less likely to be defensive if my socially unexpected partner were to be, say, quite blunt (even if I were forewarned of the fact).

If I may continue an already too long blather, I think the other element to consider is that we human beings tend to evolve, and even when we are relatively self-aware, I'd like to think that in the course of a relationship we not only learn more about ourselves, but we also tend to shift who we are slightly in the context of a particular relationship. As such, who we are can change to a certain extent. I don't think it would necessarily render the social prospectus null and void, but it may change some elements.

Certainly a thought-provoking post. Yay!

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello Roia,

My point was only that dating brokers exist close to home, not that mutual friends were the only resource.

(For that matter, if you want to pay someone there are high-end matchmakers right here in the USA too, as well as middle- and high-end dating services.)


Jeff Deutsch

Roia said...

True enough, Jeff. True enough. Perhaps other people could make saner decisions for us than we are capable of doing. Sigh.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello Roia,

True enough, Jeff. True enough. Perhaps other people could make saner decisions for us than we are capable of doing. Sigh.

You might be right in certain situations. Perhaps you could clarify what you're referring to: dating brokers, or something else?

(I'm sure it's very clear in your own mind what you're talking about. We Aspies sometimes have difficulty inferring the context of a particular remark, so it helps to provide a little extra explanation.)

Thanks for your input!

Jeff Deutsch