Communication Issues with Non-AS folks

Wow, I wish I had read this post last week, as I really could have used the insight. And the preparation.

I went to the doctor with a close friend who has a chronic medical condition (and who engages in indirect, inflection/insinuation-laden type of communication on a regular basis, especially when stressed out) and almost had an interpersonal disaster.

Basically, I was there for moral support, and I had some generally related but impersonally unrelated questions for the doctor about this friend’s condition. I just wanted to know some of the details about a certain surgical procedure I’d heard described different places, and I thought the doctor would be the best one to provide them. I couldn’t find the answers online, and I thought that would be a great time to pick the doctor’s brains and get some real insight into an intriguing subject for me.

I waited till the end of the visit, then asked the doctor about this type of surgery… and I got some really interesting information back. Fascinating… I had no idea that the internal organs interacted that way… Way cool to find out (for me, anyway)!

The only problem was, my friend became convinced that I was “setting her up” for surgery, and she’s highly surgery-phobic. I have spent the last few days trying to calm her down — and since I’m pretty nearly her only support during this medical situation, we’re both feeling like we’re on thin ice.

She typically engages in this multi-layered talk that is full of inflection and innuendo and insinuation… I can’t follow her, half the time, and I tend to just smile and nod. But lately, my sensory issues have been just maddening, and my communication has been way off, so I just don’t have the patience to sort through the labyrinth that she creates around the simplest of sentences. I just can’t follow, and when I ask for clarification or I try to get clear, she says I’m attacking her and starts to yell.

It’s just not good.

The thing too, is that she doesn’t take my Asperger’s very seriously, and she’s one of these people who says I’m just not trying. I’m just not making an attempt. And she says I just am not aware of how mean I sound. I honestly don’t intend any such thing — I literally just want to get clear about things, but she interprets that as aggression.

I’m at an impasse, here. It’s maddening. But there it is.

I guess I’ll just have to get more sleep, and see if I can find some more reliable information about Asperger’s that she can hear. She’s also not open to “heady” info, so that complicates things even more.

Maybe I can find a picture book or something…

I really don’t know…

But the more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that perhaps this communication style is related to childhood abuse issues, particularly domestic violence. This friend of mine grew up in a household run by an alcoholic, drug-addicted father who beat her mother regularly and mistreated his kids terribly. I’ve observed that my friend will use this roundabout form of communication with her family when she’s trying to find out information from them in a “safe” way… in a way that doesn’t directly engage them.

And when I talk about conversations with people, she’s always asking me about the subtle details of what people said… how they said it… the tone in their voice, etc. Half the time, I have to say “Duh, I dunno…” because I really don’t. My hearing is screwy or something — I don’t pick up the innuendos from people.

But I think that folks who grow up in violent households learn to use that sort of “testing” way of interacting, to gauge how safe things are, how others are doing, etc. So they don’t say or do something that might trigger a rage in another person — or themself. I think it’s a self-defense mechanism, frankly, that’s just gotten ingrained in their persona, and they’re completely unaware of it.

Still, if you unwittingly transgress and overstep their magical invisible Boundary of Safety, you’re in for a fight, as often as not, in my own experience.

Which is why I tend to keep to myself with folks like these, even if they are good friends. I can sometimes get a clue that they’re on the verge of snapping, because I am acquainted with them, but sometimes I get blindsided, which is a total friggin’ bummer.

Oh, well.

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that problematic Autie/Aspie – NT interaction is fueled by fight-or-flight biochemical cascades — energy gets amped up as we detect danger from different places, and we handle it in different ways — NT folks extrovert with it, and ASD folks introvert with it. Just a theory, but it holds up in my experience.

I’ll write more about this later. For now, I just want to enjoy my Sunday, for what it’s worth.

One thought on “Communication Issues with Non-AS folks

  1. Even though I’m autistic, I actually have this to a certain degree. And I agree – it’s often caused by abuse.
    Studies have shown kids with conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder (of which a vast majority have attachment issues, many have a history of abuse, and many have untreated ADHD and the accompanying school trauma) often misinterpret fearful, concentrating, sad, etc facial expressions as angry, and interpret comic story characters as acting more aggressive and nasty than other children. This is probably a related phenomenon, and anecdotally I’d say is also very common in abused people who don’t have CD/ODD.
    My father has this to a big degree. He often accuses my mother of having verbally attacked him, for example, because she asked if he’d finished something yet while he was feeling bad about not finishing it.


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