Peopling – It’s (all) a learned thing

turkeysThere’s a lot going on with me, these days.

I’m in the process of looking for another job. Ideally, I’ll find a recurring contract situation that pays really good money and is low-commitment, which lets me bail on the 9-5 every 3-6 months or so, then get back in the swing of things (if I need to).

I’m also working on a couple of other businesses at the same time. They’re mine. One of them has been many years in the making. The other is about a year old. The other (which actually has the most $$$ potential for each individual transaction), I just started a few months ago, and it’s going pretty well.

Meanwhile, my partner is not doing well, cognitively, emotionally, and physically. No matter how supportive I am, she continuously makes decisions that erode her well-being. It’s complicated. Long story short, it’s not fun watching the love of your life decline before your very eyes.

Anyway, one area where I need to make some real progress is in how I deal with people. I notice, more and more, that I’m really getting more autistic as time passes. I think it has to do with how much more sensitive I keep getting. It’s like, every year I get more “cued-in” to what’s going on around me, and my sensory issues keep getting more heightened, as well as more intrusive.

So I need to acquire some new skills – particularly with negotiation.

Here’s the thing: I can be terrible with figuring people out. I mean, seriously. Some days, I can’t tell whether they love me or hate me, I can’t tell if they’re listening to me or ignoring me. I can’t tell whether I’m doing a great job in the interaction, or they’re just trying to get away from me.

Here’s the other thing:  Some days I can be 100% ON, when it comes to interacting with people. They respond to me, they love me, they feel a kinship with me.

But even when I’m ON, I have a really hard time reading the situation and knowing where to go next.

My Solution? To train myself in the appropriate process to interact with people and negotiate any human interaction.

If you think about it, pretty much every human interaction is a negotiation. People want things. They want things from me, they want things from you, they want things for themselves. And their interactions are geared to get those needs met.

My partner is a classic case of that. One of the reasons she’s so difficult to support, is that she gets very histrionic about her challenges and she “amps them up” for effect, to prompt pity and help from people around her… so they’ll help her do things that she really needs to do for herself.

In front of other people, she makes a big show of how hard it is for her to do things. There’s much groaning and moaning and displays of difficulty. And everyone runs to her assistance to help her do things she needs to keep doing for herself, in order to stay strong and healthy.

But when nobody is watching, she does those same things for herself. She gets herself out of bed. She makes her coffee and toast. She moves around the house. She takes care of things. It’s completely different from when someone is nearby. Then, she appears to be almost completely disabled.

That’s an extreme example, of course. Not everyone is as histrionic as she is, nor do they manipulate others to that extent (and to their own detriment). But you know what I mean. Probably. Everybody wants something from interactions. Especially neurotypicals.

So, I need to get educated about how to manage that. Because my life isn’t getting any easier, and I need extra skills to A) negotiate a job change, B) expand my existing businesses, and C) really work out how to just deal with people effectively.

I need a script. I need a road map. And I’ve been watching YouTube videos about how to put together that road map. As artificial as it sounds, I keep hearing that you can script out your interactions and follow a process to lead people down a certain path of interaction. It sounds a little “Pied Piper”-ish, but apparently, people like to follow others’ leads, so I need to put myself in a leadership position when I deal with others.

It sounds a little tiring. But I’ve actually gotten in the habit of doing that, since just “winging it” with other people is so fraught for me, and it’s way too anxiety-producing. What I do is immediately take the lead in pretty much all my interactions – I talk to people first, I comment on things, I put ideas out there, I step into the void of silence and uncertainty between us, and I give them something to react to. And then I keep leading them into that void, giving them the chance to respond safely. They don’t have to come up with anything novel, themselves. They just have to react to what I’ve put out there.

And it works. For us all.

My technique is a little clunky, however, so I need to fine-tune it. That’s what I’m doing, watching videos about establishing rapport, negotiation, sales and prospecting processes… basically learning what I need, to be more comfortable in my own skin. I’m actually finding sales training videos to be very helpful, because they are about establishing rapport and bringing people over to your side.

So, that’s what I’m doing. Training myself to do the people thing. I’ve learned to do so many other things in my life, that are extremely challenging and daunting for most people. With the proper training, I should be able to learn this peopleing stuff, too.

Just a few more days, till I can get back to my routine

pocket watch on map with sandOh, Lord, the inside of my head sounds ungrateful, right about now. A still, small voice has gradually been getting louder and louder… bitching and complaining about the lack of routine in my days, this past week and a half. And that voice is eager to get back to the familiar routine of the everyday.

I can’t remember the last time I had nearly two weeks off for the end-of-year holidays. I don’t think I ever have. So, in some respects, it’s been blissful. No structure to strangulate my creativity, no outside demands (other than Christmas shopping and the odd errand) to cramp my style. I’ve been able to get up when I wanted, go to sleep when I wanted, pretty much nap whenever I please, and so forth.

Yeah, in many respects, it’s been delightful.

To just let time drift, without having any deadlines, without having any requirements, without coming down to the wire on something… it’s been glorious. My everyday life is structured pretty much around deadlines, due-dates, timelines, and so fort. It all feels so contrived to me. I have a different relationship with time than a lot of people, but that actually makes me more productive. I get more done in a few hours than a lot of people do in a week. But still, I absolutely hate deadlines and standard-issue definitions of time.

Not having that holding me back has been wonderful.

But in other ways, it’s been pretty hard.

The combination of lack of routine, plus unusual activities produced a couple of meltdowns — one in a bookstore bathroom, the other at home. And a handful of commitments I said I’d do, haven’t “materialized”. I’m using that word to get myself off the proverbial hook, because the failing hasn’t been due to some amorphous outside influence — it’s been all me.

And my need to just withdraw and shut down for a week.

Oh, the holidays are funny things. Not ha-ha funny, but weird and absurd in ways that make me laugh, for some reason. I’d been so looking forward to having nearly 2 weeks to get some things done that I’d been putting off… but once I got into holiday mode, it was like I skipped over to a parallel universe, where precious few of my interests or activities intersected with my original plans.

pug looking sidewaysParallels by definition don’t intersect, so there I was, on my separate track, looking askance at my best-laid plans… feeling faintly guilty… but not too much.

More than anything, I just wanted to be what and where I was — a normally highly efficient individual… free at last.

Which is all very interesting to me, because few things give me more satisfaction than getting things done, creating, building, producing.

And yet, there’s that intense need to NOT do any of those things, every now and then.

It’s like there’s this dynamic back-and-forth between the DOING and not-doing, that balances out my life. And considering how much I’ve been doing for months, now, I really needed that time of not-doing, to reset.

Which makes me really look forward to getting back to my regular routine.

Yeah, as much as I enjoy floating in some amorphous cloud of whatever-ness (and I do!), there’s still a big part of me that just loves-loves-loves my productivity. My predictability. My ability to Get Things Done. I love surrounding myself with the results of my work, and I love the process of getting to those results. I love having my set sequence of steps I follow to a “t”, with so much expertise, I don’t even really need to think about the steps. I just do them. Because I do them every single day, and they’re very much a part of me. Some days, it feels like they are me.

So, in a way, getting back to my routine will be getting back to myself.

And that will be good — every bit as good as taking time away.

It’s all a balance, in the end, a continuously alternating back-and-forth between two extremes. I’m autistic. I know all about extremes. And I also know how to make the most of them.

And for today, and the next day, and the next day, I shall.

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Adulting and Peopling… while #autistic

Photo Credit: Christopher Burns on Unsplash - People Walking In Underground Corridor
Photo Credit: Christopher Burns on Unsplash – People Walking In Underground Corridor (modified slightly by me)

As an adult, I have to go out and deal with people on a regular basis. I have to join conference calls with people all over the globe and talk on the phone for 6-8 hours a day, some days.

Yes, it’s extremely difficult. Yes, it wears me out. Yes, I hate it.

But it’s part of my job. And until I can find another position that gets me out of the “flow” of people, I’m stuck with it.

I like having a home and regular meals, you see…

I also have to physically go out and deal with people.

The picture above is a pretty decent representation of what it’s like for me to walk towards a group of people — in or out of an enclosed space.

My vision doesn’t work 100%. It’s narrowed, fuzzy, focused primarily on a single point ahead of me, with everything else in a blur. I have to keep focused on that single point ahead of me.

If I don’t, I may lose my way. Literally. Yes, even in a small, enclosed space.

Forget where I’m going.

Run into things.

Run into people.

Succumb to the mounting anxiety that I know will pass, once I’m out of that tunnel and free of the constriction. I just have to hang in there… just have to stick with it, till I’m out in the clear again.

There’s no escaping it, so don’t waste your / my time feeling sorry for me, feeling my pain. There’s no point to that. The pain is the pain. The confusion, overwhelm, anxiety… it’s all background noise. Just that. Nothing more. It doesn’t define me. It doesn’t ruin me. It just is. And I deal with it. Like anybody deals with bad weather or an unexpected turn of events. When things turn out differently from what you expect / plan for, it doesn’t help to throw yourself down on the ground and pitch a fit. You may feel better, or that response may be unavoidable if you’re prone to melting down, but it doesn’t actually change the circumstances you have to deal with.

Flipping out over your shoes getting wet, if you step off a boardwalk into a boggy swamp doesn’t make your feet any less wet.

I just get on with it.

Blurry as I am. Foggy as I am. Anxious as I am. This is all just part of it.

An so it goes.

My Gift is Time

I can really relate to this!

Autism and Expectations

My gift is time. My time. It’s always a balancing act. I want to give you my time, but how much will it cost? What will the toll be? How will I know?

I’m not antisocial, I love to talk and discuss and put the world to rights. I would like a person, not any specific type of person, they can be short or tall, fat or thin, any race, any age, any sex, any neurotype, but they will be someone who I can talk to over a cup of coffee. Maybe once a week. Maybe once a fortnight.

The cost of my time will be half an hour’s preparation (low if I’m going to a familiar place with a familiar person), two hours at the meeting and a couple of hours to process everything that happened afterwards. Four and a half hours for two hours’ pleasure.

But that relies…

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A3PB – Interpersonal Traits: Abuse-Related Issues

The most vulnerable can be the most trusting

Not to start out on a sour note, but the sad fact is:

Abuse and mistreatment often go hand-in-hand with the Aspie life.

In my Alt Autistic/Aspergers Profile Builder (A3PB), I’ll be listing the following issues:

Interpersonal : Abuse

  • Often misused and abused
  • Abused or taken advantage of as a child but didn’t think to tell anyone
  • Gives abusers the benefit of the doubt, may innocently suspect no wrongdoing on their part
  • Feels sorry for someone who has persecuted or hurt them
  • Sees abuse as the result of them having done something wrong, themself.
  • Thinks abusive situations/people can be avoided by following certain rules.
  • May have PTSD after history of mistreatment and abuse.

It’s critical to understand this aspect of living on the autistic spectrum, first and foremost. Most or all of the above happens all the time, to so many of us on the autistic spectrum. We need to look out for this, and understand this “soft underbelly” of our personalities, so we can protect ourselves and not unwittingly expose ourselves to more danger.

Extended periods of dealing with unscrupulous people… being taken advantage of, used and abused and mistreated and taken advantage of… is not only painful and difficult (and expensive). It can also add up to a hefty case of PTSD, as well as other mental health issues. This is equally as important for us Aspies and Auties to realize, as it is for treating professionals.

PTSD does not only happen as a result of sexual assault, incest, war, or other violent experiences. It can also aggregate from a variety of stresses in life. The subtleties of Aspie abuse and mistreatment need to be appreciated, in order to effectively treat — and not over-medicate or apply incorrect therapeutic interventions.

Attribution: I’ve derived the listed items from Tania Marshall’s Aspienwomen: Moving towards an adult female profile of Autism/Asperger Syndrome  as well as Samantha Craft’s Females With Asperger’S Syndrome (Non-Official) Checklist, as well as my own observations.

Have you got any additional items you’d like to add with regard to this topic? Add your comments below. Thanks!