Social scripts: a play in one act

Or, what happens when a co-worker wants to ask you a question about something work-related but feels the need to have some chit-chat first.

Co-worker:
hi, had a good weekend?

Autisticook:
yeah sure, you too?

Co-worker:
can’t complain, 2 nights north sea jazz and 2 birthdays on saturday

Co-worker:
so yes 🙂

Co-worker:
you done anything fun?

Autisticook:
north sea jazz, great!

Autisticook:
who did you see?

Co-worker:
err… do you have an hour or two?

Autisticook:
hahaha

Co-worker:
Friday Roy Hargrove, Diana Krall, Seesick steve
Sunday Nynke Laveman, Javier Limon, Marcus Miller, Ben Harper, Bonnie Raitt, and Sting

Co-worker:
all never seen before and all very awesome

Co-worker:
and some bits here and there from other artists

Autisticook:
yeah that’s how it goes at north sea, that’s what makes it fun 🙂

Co-worker:
indeedy

Co-worker:
you’ve been?

Autisticook:
i went when it was still in the hague but haven’t been to rotterdam yet

Autisticook:
so it’s been a while

Co-worker:
ahhh, i haven’t been for years either when it left the hague but it’s more fun than i thought even though ahoy [the venue, ed.] is so massive

Co-worker:
so simply go 🙂

Co-worker:
i had a question about that ftp issue…

What follows next is meant to be a funny explanation of how I process social cues, a bit like a fake anthropological article. It’s not meant to be taken 100% seriously although the tips and tricks will very likely work in real-life situations. If you can’t laugh at yourself, what’s the point? However, from some (non-autistic) reactions it appeared I was too subtle in my humour, that’s why I added this explanation. If confusion persists, I might have to resort to colour-coding the funny bits.🙂

I’ve developed my script for dealing with “how was your weekend?” because I noticed that answering truthfully wasn’t a socially acceptable option for me. Apparently neurotypical people get very uncomfortable when you say “I played computer games” or “I read a book” (well, actually 3 books).

Note the first strategy in line 4: deflection. Mostly, people who ask about your weekend do so for two reasons: because they think it’s the polite thing to do and because what they really want is for you to ask them about their weekend. So, deflect the question back to the other person.

Sometimes they don’t take the hint and will ask you again, as in line 10. In that case, deploy the second strategy: ask them specific questions about something they casually referred to in their first answer. In this case, I could have asked whose birthdays, and get them talking about their family or their friends. I picked North Sea Jazz because I have some specific knowledge about this so it’s easier to ask questions that will keep the other person talking. You can even volunteer some information but only do this if you’re absolutely sure about how it will be received. In this case, I mentioned I had been to North Sea Jazz as well because I know that people like having shared experiences (*). However, I didn’t mention that I stopped going because the crowds and the noise drive me bonkers. That’s too much information.

Keep on doing this until the other person gets to the question that prompted them to start a conversation or until they walk away. Neurotypical people don’t have hyperfocus and have a low boredom threshold so it usually doesn’t take too long. Good luck!

(*) Edited to add: This is only true for general locations or actions. If it’s talking about specific experiences that trigger an emotion within the NT, they will think you’re selfish for trying to focus the conversation on yourself. A safe course of action would be to keep on asking the NT questions or to only agree in short sentences like “Oh, me too!” or “I know exactly what you mean” when you’re not sure of the emotional content of the experience.

Are you sure you’re autistic?

Hyacinth starting to bloomTrigger warning: discussion of suicide

Autistic. Or Asperger’s. Or on the spectrum. I usually say autistic because it feels like I have far more in common with classic autism than most people are willing to see. My parents were not surprised when I mentioned Asperger’s. When I started to say “autistic spectrum disorder” instead, they suddenly became dismissive. They might be on the spectrum too, I don’t know but I have my suspicions.

Are you sure you’re autistic? I’ve heard this question a lot of times over the past two months. Ever since I started working towards getting diagnosed, it’s prompted others to do some diagnosing of their own. Sometimes I want to yell at them that if they were armed both with the experience of living this and with the literally THOUSANDS of web pages and articles and books I’ve read, I might take their opinion a wee bit more seriously. However, there is a social rule that says you’re not allowed to yell at your GP or your mental health care provider for being ignorant arses.

Yep. Both my GP and my mental health care provider have questioned the idea that I might be autistic.

Well, actually my GP said, “I don’t think you are autistic at all” and would only give me a referral to get diagnosed after two appointments with him and after mentioning that my mother said she’d always suspected me of having Asperger’s.

And at the mental health clinic where I’ve had two diagnostic interviews, they want to look deeper into depression.

Right.

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