Monday, March 2, 2009

A Trunk-ful of Tough Truths

Penelope Trunk is a hard-hitting career advisor, and she really seems to know her stuff.

Including why good social skills are vital in both the boardroom and the bedroom. Ms. Trunk's young son is brilliant - and an Aspie. And she knows her son - with all his brains - needs social skills and other interventions if he's to have even close to the same chance at a happy work and personal life that his less-well-endowed NT peers will likely enjoy as a matter of course.

Ms. Trunk has a wake-up call - "Stop thinking you'll get by on your high I.Q" - for smart Aspies and their families. She doesn't mince words for those of us who, after all, don't get hints. A representative sample of her approach:

Social skills are [one of the most important factors] in whether you succeed or fail. I link to this research all the time, but frankly, if you need research to understand that the people who are best at office politics succeed at the office, then you are missing basic social cues already.

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Notice that most [skills needed in the workplace] are independent of intelligence. Smart is [not] an endgame...and the standard for ability to work well with others is only getting higher, not lower: Generation Y is more team-oriented than prior generations.

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I'm going to tell you something harsh: If your career is stuck, it's probably because of poor social skills.

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Hold it. Did you just say, "If people don't like me maybe it's their fault!" Forget it. People with good social skills can get along with just about everyone.

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[People who] have poor social skills will not likely find a place for themselves. We can talk about playing to people's strengths, but that only works to the degree that companies have a need for those strengths.

The super smart are generally number crunchers and fact-mavens. But a computer can do that today. And any problem that needs solving in a room with the door closed does not need to be solved for high U.S. salaries - the job can be offshored. I think it's a big mistake to think that whatever our strengths and weaknesses are there is a place for us in this world. It just isn't true.

Most of us need to be able to hold down a job that supports us. And we all want to be in a healthy, intimate relationship with someone. Not all strengths and weaknesses allow for this, and if they don't, we need to change.

Some of us need to change a bit in order to fit in. It's the truth about being inherently social beings.

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(All hyperlinks in original.)

In short: If you're an Aspie or autist - or for whatever other reason just have difficulty getting along with people - your problem - and the best person to solve it - are both right in the mirror.

It may not be fair that we have such difficulty with things like reading facial expressions or tones of voice or handling multiple stimuli at once, that many people have what we may consider to be illogical, petty or even stupid criteria for judging people or that the world is based so much on personal relationships. But that's the way it is, and it's not going to change - at least in the ways we might like - anytime soon, if ever.

We need to deal with the fit between ourselves and the world; if the hole is round, then it's not "hip to be square".

Also check out Ms. Trunk's "Dealing with social awkwardness at work: Insights from the autism community" - especially if you're no longer in school and thus don't automatically have teachers and experts to look after you - and her above-hyperlinked "Social skills matter more than ever, so here's how to get them."

What do you think?

2 comments:

SavedAspie said...

Wow, good stuff as always. Thank you!

Mama Mara said...

I had no idea that Penelope Trunk was an autie-mom! Her blunt approach to things has always been a bit intimidating to me, but she never fails to give me food for thought.

You've managed once again to bridge the gap between spectrum folks and typpies, showing us how we can learn from each other. Excellent post!