Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mean People. Rude People.

Though it’s never your fault when someone is rude to them (they should have better manners than that!) sometimes we make the situation worse just by nature of being Aspies.  Unfortunately, it seems to me that in the NT world, once they've labeled someone  as a jerk it’s ok to be mean to them.  Also, once they’ve labeled someone as weaker or inferior, it’s ok to take advantage of them.

I don’t feel this way.  But many NTs do.

Here are some things I’ve noticed contribute to when are people most mean to me:

They are rude to me when I can't clearly and quickly communicate what I want.  If I take 2 minutes to get out one thought, they don't have time or interest and they get mad and be rude.

They are rude to me when I am clearly interrupting.  If they are on the phone, talking with someone, etc, this is not the time to interrupt unless very, very important.  I have trouble with this because my delayed processing means I think there is a gap in the conversation sometimes and I speak only to realize they'd started talking again and now I just cut them off.  I've learned to just stop my words when I realize this, and say, "I'm sorry I thought you were done, please go on- I really wanna know what you think" and not let my pride be hurt about it.  You have to reassure them you really want to hear what they were going to say, otherwise they will think YOU are being rude.

They are rude to me when I am annoying them (even if I don’t realize it).  What makes it worse is they will never tell you that you are annoying to them!! Here are some things I did that annoy people (I still do them when stressed, but I try really hard not to):  Laugh at the end of every sentence. Talk all the time and for a long time (I have worked hard to lose the reputation of “don’t go talk to her unless you have 30 minutes to kill”).  Talk my every move out loud as I do it (“ok, now I’m gonna click this… oh, let’s see what that site says… oh yeah that’s the one I want”), pop my knuckles/neck/back alllll the time (don’t do this!), clip my nails at my desk (don’t know why they can do this but I can’t - pout - ), make lots of desk noise (rustling papers, rattling pens etc).  Have your cell phone go off all the time (put it silent or vibrate and if the vibrate is LOUD put it on silent) - even if you use your alarm to stay on task like I do this annoys them and they may never tell you.

They are rude to me when they think I am passive, weak, dumb.  Behaviors that contribute to them thinking this of me are: looking down all the time (try to sit/stand/walk with shoulders “up, back, and down” head up in a confident pose and making eye contact often), laughing at the end of every sentence (indicates nervousness), fidgeting or clenching fists (indicates nervousness or anger), temper tantrums/meltdowns, writing down every word they say in a meeting (indicates you don’t have a strong enough mind to remember the key points), not fighting back when someone does you wrong (if thy do you wrong, you have to stand up for yourself- but you gotta do it the right way).  This actually deserves it’s own point.

They are rude to me when I don’t stand up for myself.  New people at work OFTEN do what I call “testing.”  They will dog you out, make you look foolish, or say something untrue to see what you do.  Basically, they are looking to see if you a) catch what they’ve done and b) have the guts to do something about it.  For example, a new coworker poo-poohed my program in front of my boss. I know I don’t always understand what’s going on, so I didn’t jump down his throat right there but when I got back to my office I verified that my opinion was valid, sent him documentation to that effect, and then told him perhaps he’d like to spend a few weeks getting up to speed on things like this (the doc I sent him) before he blasted me in front of the boss.  He was nice to me for about 2-3 weeks, then another “test.”  Nice for 2-3 weeks and then another “test.”  Another example:  A vender said something that clearly wasn’t true according to the laws of physics.  In the past, I would just ignore it and say in my head “he doesn’t’ know what he’s talking about.” I thought I was being gracious to just let it go.  The problem is, he probably KNEW he was blowing smoke and just wanted to see if YOU were smart enough to know it.  So the first time someone says something wrong, you gotta call them on it.  Be quick about it though, don’t take 5 minutes explaining why they’re wrong- just in 1 sentence or less.  If someone really doesn’t know their stuff, pull them aside. Just make sure, if you do this, that it’s really a “right vs wrong” thing, not just something where you have your way and they have their way of doing it, or you could be labeled as an inflexible jerk.

They are rude to me when they perceive that I only talk about myself and ask about myself.  This can be tough because I tend to think if you want to tell me something you WILL so I don't ask about your weekend or your pet. I figure if you want to talk about your weekend, you will.  But NTs don't work that way.  They actually use a code to tell you they wanna tell you about their weekend. It's crazy, but the way they tell you this is not to just start talking about their weekend (what I would do) but ask you about YOURS.  They really don't want to hear about yours- they just want you to give a quick answer and say "So how was YOUR weekend" so they can tell you all about it.  Crazy.  If you're the person who always talks about you and never about them, then they feel justified being mean to you because they've now labeled you as a jerk.  And in the NT world, it’s ok to be mean to jerks.  Never mind the fact that, to most Aspies, they’re the true jerks, but that’s another story!!

They are rude to me when they realize I don't process things fast enough or that I am naive in certain areas.  One antidote to this is to NOT tell personal stories.  I recommend you do NOT talk about how this person or that person hurt you, how no one ever likes you, no one ever appreciates you, people always take advantage of you.  This marks you as a target and a manipulator, listening to all this, will soon move in to take advantage of you.  Another antidote to this is to talk as minimally as possible- basically get the other people talking much more so they don't ever find out you have trouble processing. Never mind the fact that I can calculate in my head things they will never understand, the bottom line is I'm slower in processing many things, and they will see that weakness and go in for the kill.

They are rude to me when I'm too negative.  The same complaining I mentioned above might also label you as someone who will always bring others down. People want to feel happy. They want to surround themselves with people who make them feel better about themselves.  Unless there's a particular reason they are sad (for example, their mom or pet died or they just got fired) they don't want you to be sad around them.  And even when you have a legitimate reason to be sad, they kinda want you to get over it faster than you think is reasonable.  It stinks, I know!  Again, this goes into being labeled a jerk.  If you get labeled a jerk buy influential NTs, the others at work or school will take it upon themselves to be mean to you.  Sorry.

They are rude/mean to me when they realize I have what they call “word vomit” tendencies.  To most NTs this blog post would be entirely too long.  “Ain’t nobody got time fo dat!”  If you write like I do, or if you talk like I write (which is how I talk at home) you are going to get labeled a pompous, arrogant, selfish jerk. Even though I’m none of those things.  And people aren’t going to want to have time for you.  And, again, in the NT world, if you are labeled a jerk or are in a major way different from others, it appears socially acceptable for them to be mean to you.

My experience with NTs has show me that they are VERY into themselves but resent any indication that YOU are into yourself and will often be mean/rude to those perceived as weaker or of lesser value. 

Mostly, if I can sum this up: NTs will treat you mean if you a) waste their time, b) annoy them, c) appear too into yourselves (and not enough into them) and d) appear to be less strong mentally than they are.  It is never your fault that someone is mean to you, but by being aware of the items I wrote above, you can significantly reduce the instances where people are rude to you.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Learn how to be social and overcome social anxiety!!

Asperger’s people generally have a lot of trouble with social anxiety and many don't like to make eye contact.  About 10 years ago, I got my first managerial job and it required me to be more of a people person.  Eye contact was SOOO painful for me!  And random chit chat?  WHY??  Why should I pretend to care about your cat??  Ugh!!

Anyway, I had to learn how to be more comfortable with eye contact and random chit-chat or I was gonna lose this job. Here is my strategy for how to "practice" being social by progression.  I still have some days where I’m bad at this, but more good days than bad and so I have given this strategy to many young adult Aspies with great success. I hope it helps you!!

For each of these do as much as you can handle and have time for: 5, 10, 20 minutes.  The key is to do these practice behaviors consistently (at least once a week) until you get better. It took me about a year to be able to look people in the eyes and say hi, and another year to get comfortable initiating chit-chat with strangers.  In the beginning, I  also said a lot of dumb stuff (oops) and had people looking at me crazy.  You get better over time- so don’t give up!

1. Walk around Walmart/Target/etc and practice looking people in the eye as you walk past them.  Drive to a nearby town if you don't want friends/coworkers/peers to see you.

2.  Walk around Walmart/Target/etc and both look people in the eye and smile as you walk past them

3.  Same thing, just add saying "Hi"

4.  Once you're comfortable with the above, walk around any store (again, if you’re scared out of your mind do this in another town or a place where people don’t know you!!) and approach people looking for something in the shelves.  Before you approach them, have a conversation topic handy that gives a good reason for you interrupting them. 

For example:  You’re in the spice aisle, and there’s a lady looking around.  She doesn’t look like she’s in a rush, so you pick up a spice blend and ask her, “Excuse me, have you tried this before?”  You could also ask if she’s tried this brand before.  If it’s a tall guy, you could ask him to get something from a high shelf for you (even if you don’t really need it- the clerk can help you put it back later or, if it’s not perishable, you can just leave it at the checkout).    Don’t just pick the first person you see for this!!  Pick someone who is more likely to give you a good experience by looking for those who seem peaceful and happy and not in a rush. If they look angry or agitated, or if their kids are screaming, don’t practice on them.  They’ll probably just be mean to you, and that would hurt.

**The key here is to practice talking to random people.  This can be very painful!  It was for me!!  Just spend 5, 10, 20 minutes a session and it will work wonders for you!

5.  Once you are comfortable talking to someone “in context” (that is, it would seem reasonable for you to ask for help or advice in context of shopping) now it’s time to be random. Yep.  You’re going to practice making random conversation with anyone around you: in the elevator, in line at the checkout, waiting for the metro, wherever you and someone else are “stuck together” for a few minutes.

I know, I know, you probably feel like this is going to be a waste of your time!  It’s not and here’s why:  Over the years I’ve become pretty good at doing this.  Not only has it helped me professionally (that is, I get better jobs now) but it’s also helped me get along with people who can help me in my daily life.  See, before I learned to make chit-chat with people it seemed like everyone was so mean to me. If I went into a store and asked for help, seemed like they didn’t want to help me.  If I went to a new church, none of the young adults would talk to me.  I didn’t understand why because I’m such a nice, caring person.  Well, I don’t understand WHY but I do know that being able to make this kind of chit-chat with random strangers totally changes them into people who WANT to help you.  I’ve learned a lot about cool things chit-chatting with strangers in line at the grocery store. I’ve gotten freebies from chit-chatting with waiters and other service agents.  Finally, the BIGGEST benefit with all of this for me is it’s made it easier for me to make friends and engage in romantic relationships.  I used to stress out so bad I would look for any reason not to go out with a guy (and then beat myself up about no guys wanting me!!).  This reason alone is well worth the pain and anxiety of working through these steps.

Like I said above, I still have my bad days. I have days where I can’t make eye contact with anyone in the store, but those days are rare. 

If this has helped you, please comment and let me know!