Saturday, May 23, 2009

Social Graces, or Lack Therof

My friends and I have been discussing how for us learning to be sociable is like cataloging experiences. We learn through discovery (whether ours or someone else's) and then catalog the right and wrong responses as we discover them. When the next situation comes up, we run through our catalogs and find the best matching response to throw out. For example, asking how are you (something I hate because usually no one really wants to know):

She asked "How are you today?"
Do I know her- > No. So the answer is "Fine," even though I'm really bummed b/c it looks like my weekend plans are falling through.

She asked "How are you today?"
Do I know her- > Yes. So the answer is "Doin' Alright," even though I'm really bummed b/c it looks like my weekend plans are falling through.
She's started rambling about her day -> Ok. She's not really interested in me right now. Let her talk. Don't mention my bad news.

She asked "How are you today?"
Do I know her- > Yes. So the answer is "Doin' Alright," even though I'm really bummed b/c it looks like my weekend plans are falling through.
She now asks, "How are your plans for the weekend going?" I say, "progressing" (and wonder if she is really interested or just being polite).
She asks, really, what are you trying to do? She asked the question, so I can tell her, but just a little, to guage her interest.

She asked "How are you today?"
Do I know her- > Yes. So the answer is "Doin' Alright," even though I'm really bummed b/c it looks like my weekend plans are falling through.
She now asks, "How are your plans for the weekend going?" I say, "progressing" (and wonder if she is really interested or just being polite).
Silence. Oh, yeah. This is where I'm supposed to ask her how her weekend is going, because in reality she's not very concerned about my weekend, she only asked me about it so she could open the door to telling me about her great new plans. So, I say, "What about you? Got plans?"

Well, I got another lesson in social graces today: The organizer of my running group offered me a free shirt (a standard cotton T-Shirt). I already have a ton of cotton shirts (some purchased through this running group) and T-Shirts don't flatter my figure.

So I said, "oh, I don't need another cotton shirt. But thanks for thinking of me." My thought was: he's offering me this shirt, but he normally sells them and since I don't need or want it why take it out of stock? He can either sell it or give it to someone who can use it. That's what I would want him to do if it were the other way around (I would be angry if you told me you wanted something and I gave it to you but later found it on the Goodwill racks).

He looked at me funny and then walked away. The girl I was with shook her heed and said, "You should have took the shirt. The right answer was, 'Thank You' and you take the shirt. You could have given it to your sister or something." I explained to her that I hate waste (which my taking the shirt would be) but she explained all the more that the right answer was to smile sweetly and take the shirt that he was obviously (to her, not to me) trying to get rid of.

What's sad is, I know she's right NT-wise, but I still hate the thought of wasting an item I don't need just to be polite. It never occurred to me I was hurting his feelings. I thought I was doing him a favor.

So, the first lesson from today is: sometimes it's better to be polite than to be "right."

The second lesson from todayis : sometimes as Aspies, we really CAN'T do others as we'd have them do unto us. We have to do unto them as THEY'D have us do.

And the final lesson from today is: When someone offers you something, the polite thing to do is take it, even if you don't want it.
Unless, of course, your friend is an Aspie who hates waste ;-)

7 comments:

Fleecy said...

That is something that always baffled me as well, if somebody offered me something I did not want/need I would say no thank you and sometimes people would get mad! I couldn't understand why a perfectly polite refusal ("no, thank you") was something to get mad about. Took me years to figure out (just recently actually) that usually - not always, but usually - if someone is trying to give you something, especially food, they are probably trying to do some nicety friendly thing with you and if you refuse it they think you are rejecting them. Or something. It's one of those weird subtext things, I think.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello,

Fittingly enough, my original word verification was "litso" - in A Clockwork Orange, that means "face". And this is precisely a matter of saving face for the other person.

You can make clear how much you appreciate the kind offer, and if applicable how good the item itself is, while also making clear that someone else would probably better appreciate the item.

Just as Fleecy said, you need to make clear that you're not rejecting the other person along with the item itself.

Speaking for myself, I would not want as a friend anyone who could not separate facts from feelings enough to realize the above difference (as long as I made an honest effort to show it), or who would not grant me the same privilege they were asking for (namely, not to have something they didn't want).

I completely agree with you that if I were offering something, I would not want someone who didn't really want it to accept it and then do something like throw it away or pass it along.

(Re-gifting is itself perfectly fine, IMHO. But I wouldn't want someone to accept a gift with the sole intention of playing "hot potato" with it.)

Last but not least, I've learned from experience that your first and second lessons apply widely. As for the third, that's more a matter of individual judgment.

Cheers,

Jeff Deutsch

Cube Demon said...

Save Aspie

I would've said "No but Thanks anyway" as well.

I do not understand this at all. Why would I take an item I do not want? I'm in agreement with you Saved Aspie. I would want someone else to have it who wanted it.

Wouldn't it be selfish of me to take something I do not want and to deprive someone else of it? I do not get it at all. This is so confusing to me.

I feel like everything is so surreal.

Cube Demon said...

Saved Aspie

I have one more question. Is it not thuggish to force something on someone they do not want to have?

SavedAspie said...

How do you mean thuggish?

This is a really weird case, because it's not just that I didn't want the shirt- it's that I didn't want a plain cotton shirt (implying if it had been a better fabric or a fitted style I would have taken it... which is true, LOL).

That's called looking a gift horse in the mouth, and is rude to most people.

So it's not that he was trying to force it on me, but I was saying his offer wasn't good enough. Offending him. Actually, he didn't seem to care. It's the girl I was with who cared.

I don't pretend to understand the reasoning, but I'm at least trying to learn it so I can get through life minimizing offenses over dumb stuff.

Cube Demon said...

SavedAspie

I see what you're saying. I would not have known this was rude and offensive. I did not know it was an implication.

SavedAspie said...

Hey, thanks for coming back Cube... maybe if we all share experinces like this we'll eventually figure out how to navigate the NT world with minimal offenses.

Of course, you can't please ALL of the people ALL of the time :-)