What you should NEVER ask an Aspie
Never ask an Aspie a question to which you don't want a brutally honest answer.
Bear with me. It's something of a cliché, but people frequently ask each other their opinions and add, "... and be honest".
But honesty isn't what they want. What they want you to say is what they want to hear; and when you don't, you're rude, an "arsehole", or a "bully".
And that, bizarrely enough, is the whole problem.
Because a perhaps universal trait among Aspies in particular, and perhaps even autistics as a whole, is we don't lie about these things. It's not so much we're incapable of telling an untruth (say, to save our skin or prevent a greater evil), but for most purposes we don't see the point.
Because if you didn't, then what the fuck are we even doing here?
But over the years I've come to learn that's not how neurotypicals want to play the game. Sucks to be them, I guess, because it's virtually impossible for most of us Aspies to play it.
Three things you need to consider here.
Aspies take questions at face value
There's a tendency among us to take things literally. Consequently, we are often easy to lie and deceive.
It's not that we're stupid or gullible, but more that we don't see why you'd tell a lie. If you tell me something obviously nonsensical and ridiculous, like scientists have found the moon is made of cheese, then, no, I'm not going to believe you.
But if you were to tell me, say, you were descended from Danish Royalty and you went to the Danish Royal Palace for your summer holidays as a child, I wouldn't question it. I'd have no way of telling from your face or body language you were having me on, and it'd never occur to me you were bullshitting me.
This tendency towards literalness bleeds over into how we interpret your questions. In other words, if you're asking me something, then I presume you want an accurate and precise answer.
So, you ask me a question, and I'll answer it if I can.
If you ask my opinion, then as long as I'm qualified to have one, I'll give it to you.
And because it's important to this Aspie to be accurate and precise, my answer or opinion is often detailed, qualified, and comes with no punches pulled and no holds barred.
I stress: I am not being intentionally rude or hurtful.
I simply don't have the capability of knowing how much is too much. You've asked me and I'm telling you. If you want my answer to be different, maybe softer, then ask me a different and better question.
If you ask me "Do I look fat in this?", I'll tell you... and I'll also tell you where you look fat and the general effect it has on your appearance.
We find it hard to read you
I remember once being in the gym and the trainer was satisfied I understood what I was supposed to be doing and said to me, "OK, let's run with it".
I was mystified.
I said, "You want me to run with this weight? Where to?".
Yeah, I know. Hilarious.
Sure, given time and hindsight, I could figure out what he meant, but in the moment?
Nope. I took him literally.
At the root of it all is context.
It's easier for us to answer a question or interpret things other than literally if we have a context to hang it on. If I know you or the situation and circumstances well, it's easier because I have explicit experience to draw on.
But most of the time context is created in real-time, often supported and clarified by a vast amount of information passed by facial expressions, body language, and the nuances of social interaction.
Sorry, we don't have that luxury.
We have your words, and only your words.
As I've said before, life is lived in real-time.
And personally speaking...
Notwithstanding the very real challenges I and other Aspies have with all this, there's also my personal philosophy on life to consider.
A common trait among humans is to lie to one another in an attempt to spare each other's feelings. It seems 'white lies' are somehow acceptable, lies aimed not a personal gain but at some more noble pursuit.
I'm not buying that.
I suspect Janet spares Joan's feelings not for Joan's sake but for her own, so Janet doesn't have to deal with feeling responsible for Joan's feelings. Janet's empathy means she gets upset when Joan gets upset, so she takes it upon herself to make decisions for herself and claim she's doing it for Joan's benefit and the "greater good".
Here's how I see it:
- Janet does not and can not know how Joan is going to feel about anything. Joan's feelings and emotions are Joan's responsibility, and Janet can not manage them for her.
- Janet doesn't have the right even to attempt to manage Joan's emotions for her. They are none of Janet's business. Janet is at liberty to keep her own secrets, to be sure, but she doesn't have the right to filter the information she gives to Joan because of how she thinks it might affect her.
- Janet doesn't have the right to deprive Joan the opportunity to deal with uncomfortable situations for herself and thus perhaps learn and grow from them.
Whether you agree with me here or not is none of my concern.
It's enough for you anyone else to know...
... if you ask me a question I will give you a full, frank, and honest answer.
If you think that's potentially going to be upsetting for you the answer is simple: don't ask.
Jon McCulloch, The Evil Bald Genius
Author, speaker, business owner, and autism advocate