“I Shouldn’t Have to Ask!” – The Phrase That Ruins Inter-Neurotype Relationships (And What to Do Instead)
Neurotypicals who live with and/or love an autistic person, do you ever wonder how you can come home from a hectic day with the word “stressed” practically written all over your face, and your partner doesn’t even ASK what’s wrong? Do you wonder how it’s even conceivable that your co-worker is always talking to you about his pet snakes when you’ve clearly shown your disgust in facial expressions, body language, AND tone of voice?
There is quite a good reason why: We can’t read your facial expressions, body language, and/or tone of voice. To you, you have VERY clearly indicated your distress, disgust, anger, (even desire for romance), and you’re just being ignored.
To us, you haven’t “said” anything at all!
This may not be the first time you’re hearing this, either. Many autistic people, once we become aware of our neurological differences, will take care to explain this to our NT counterparts in detail, but…it is often not taken seriously. I don’t know why this is, but it happens (and way too often, in my opinion).
So, I’m here to tell you that if an autistic person tells you that you DO have to ask and clearly verbalize your wants, needs, and feelings, take it as seriously as you would anyone else telling you they needed accessibility.
And that’s just what it is, accessibility! Neurodivergent people rely on clear verbal or written information in order to do what’s expected of us.
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The best way to improve communication with your autistic loved one is to understand how your autistic loved one’s mind works! Intentions, motivations, and personal expressions (facial expressions or lack thereof, body language, etc.), are often quite different in autistic people than they are in neurotypical people.
Experience a better understanding of your autistic loved one by reading books about life from an autistic perspective as well as stories that feature autistic characters. You’ll have so many “Ah ha!” moments and start seeing your autistic loved one in a different light (and you’ll have a better understanding of their behaviors, which you may have been misinterpreting up until now).
Books I recommend for a better understanding of your autistic loved one:
Subtlety is lost on most of us, and what is “obvious” to you is simply NOT to us. Not only is it not obvious, it doesn’t exist!
Your repeated sighing or the crease between your brows isn’t even on our radar. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just not information we can read.
I mean, you wouldn’t try to communicate with a blind person using sign language and then get upset when they don’t understand you, right?
It’s the same concept with autistics!
Can we learn to read facial expressions and body language? Yes, some of us can. However, most of us have learned by being repeatedly abused, and that’s the psychological equivalent of training a chihuahua with a cattle prod!
The best way to get us to understand your wants and needs is to tell us. You can also let us know what certain expressions mean. This helps us to make connections, and, as we get to know you, we’ll actually have a chance of learning you organically instead of being frightened into it.
And, if you still think, “I shouldn’t have to ask!” is an effective way to communicate with the ND person in your life, tell me, which is the man in the photo? Neurotypical or neurodivergent?
Because this type of miscommunication tears us both apart…equally.
Are household chores a common source of friction between you and your autistic loved one? Learn what the disconnect is and how you can improve it by clicking on the photo below.
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