Autistics and eye contact
Autistics and eye-contact, one of those subtle and highly irritating things I think we'd do well as a society to beat to death once and for all.
As you may know, I'm a business owner, a mentor, and while I'm not a fan of social media I do have a presence there. And LinkedIn is where I spend most of my time (because that's where my clients are).
And one of the more annoying and obnoxious features of the site is the huge number of armchair psychologists and mental health experts. It seems the only qualification you need to be able to render accurate diagnoses of complex psychological and neurological disorders and conditions is to be a "coach" and have read one of two popular self-help books my some "guru" or other.
One of the common things I've seen from these people is this dumb insistence not making eye-contact hints at nervousness and perhaps even dishonesty and guile.
And that is qualitatively no different from saying having alopecia hints at a propensity for thuggery and violence.
Autistics and eye contact frequently do not play well together
It's different for each of us, I'm sure, although there are many commonalities in my experience and the experiences of other autistics I've spoken about this with (so if you want to know how an individual feels about it, then ask him or her).
For me too much eye contact is uncomfortable because it's confusing. I find myself being distracted both by my efforts to try to read what your facial expressions are telling me and by the individual features on your face. I might become captivated by your beautiful blue eyes, shapely lips, or the fucking enormous zit on your conk. You'll just never know.
I can and do make eye contact because I've found it can make things go smoother (see how routinely we have to adapt to your world?), but I tend to look at you when I'm talking and not when you are (the opposite of what neurotypicals tend to do).
However, some autistics find eye contact debilitating, even painful to the point of being unbearable.
To then be judged and called "dishonest" for avoiding a painful and uncomfortable experience is beyond the pale.
This doesn't stop these dumb-fuck coaches and the like repeating their bigotry on a regular basis (meaning even when they're apprised of the facts, they maintain their ignorance and continue to spread it); nor does it stop them from airily claiming they can teach us how to "overcome" this "limiting belief" by helping us with our "mindset". Personally, I'd like to tie them to a chair and beat them with hammers, just to see how much they enjoy that fucking "altered state".
Look at it from our point if view: we're living in a world where the expected norm is for us to stare creepily into other people's eyes while they talk to us so they can show us how they're feeling... and if we don't do it we're "rude" and probably planning to cheat them.
Have you any idea how fucked-up that sounds to an autistic?
I did a video about it here some time ago, but the truth is, if I'm looking at you and making eye-contact while you're talking to me, the chances are excellent I'm not listening to a word you're saying.
And something tells me you'd probably be even more pissed off about that.
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate