Are Aspergians really rude and inconsiderate?

One common characteristic of people with Asperger’s is that we are more or less blind to the non verbal communications of others. As a result, we find ourselves forever saying and doing the wrong thing, with the best of intentions. We’re described as arrogant, aloof, uncaring and inconsiderate.

I contend that we are none of those things. I believe we are simply blind, emotionally.

Read on for the full article!

We do not respond to other people’s observable cues because we don’t see them. Neurotypical people read the signals and respond; we don’t. But just as a visually blind person can understand a world he can’t see, I can understand and feel empathy and emotion even though I can’t automatically see the triggers.

For example, I’m quite sure I feel empathy for other people. If my wife were to be injured in a fall, I would immediately share her pain and distress. I would become distressed myself, and my top priority would be to relieve her discomfort. That’s what empathy is all about.

When it plays out in the real world, though, it’s easy for people to get a wrong impression. Imagine my wife and me, walking on the recreational trail. She trips on a stick and falls. I turn and look at her. There’s no sign of injury. None of her limbs seem twisted or broken. She did not yell loudly, and she’s not making any loud noises now.

“Are you damaged?” I ask because I know it’s possible to sustain damage that’s not visible from the outside. I’m not too worried, though, because I know most falls do not result in injury. I’ve seen this before.

“No, I don’t think so.” Her answer reassures me that there is no cause for alarm. I’m relieved.

“OK, then, get up and let’s go.” I give the only practical answer I can see. The day is passing, and we are standing still. Time to get moving again!

I have had third parties observe exchanges like that with a very critical eye. “I can’t believe you’re so callous,” they say. But if you read my thoughts, I wasn’t callous at all. I made a reasoned evaluation of the situation and acted appropriately.

The relief I felt when she said she wasn’t hurt was a genuine empathy reaction. And in that case, it’s all that was needed. There was no real injury or pain to share or mitigate.

If there had been injury, I was calm and logical and ready to act. Luckily, that wasn’t necessary.

Why is my wife satisfied with that response?

Sometimes observers challenge us with questions like that. It’s a valid question . . . we meet many alienated Asperger spouses at my speaking events. In our case, the answer is simple. She’s known me for many years. There have been times when she was hurt, and in those times I never failed to be there, supportive and helpful. I have shown my empathy by my actions over a period of years. She knows it’s there even though the superficial manifestations may be missing in situations. Therefore, she’s perfectly comfortable with my response, as nothing was really wrong.

She knows that I’d have responded very differently if her leg had been broken.

What might one conclude from that? She is very sensitive to me, and she can sense what I’m thinking and feeling even though I give very little sign. She’s comfortable with what she sees and senses. Her greater than average sensitivity offsets my own partial blindness. Together, we make a successful team.

She knows that I am just are caring as anyone else. I just show it in different ways.

Sometimes people ask me, “What kind of person should a guy with Asperger’s look for?”

I can’t speak for you, but this is an answer that’s worked for me:

People with Asperger’s have very weak sensitivity to other people’s thoughts and feelings. But we often offset that with exceptionally strong logical brains. Therefore, we are wise to seek a mate with exceptional emotional sensitivity and less logical brainpower. Then, our mental abilities compliment each other’s. One of us has great emotional intelligence, and the other has great logical intelligence. Individually, we’re each weak. Together, though, we are very strong.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

By John Elder Robison. Originally posted on PyschologyToday.com

4 thoughts on “Are Aspergians really rude and inconsiderate?”

    Comments

    • Arcane on April 1, 2015

      Great article

    • narcolepticpenguin on April 20, 2015

      See I am the oppisit,I am very sensative to others feelings and emotions,I know when somebody is having a bad day from across a room or the second they enter just from reading the natural body language,however my weakness lies in the fact that I know what I should say to change this,and I do feel the need to change it but I do not act. because I simply tell myself it is not my place to help a stranger,if they were to ask me I would certainly try my best to supply support,but unless I have a already established relationship I usually will not.this is because I deluded myself into thinking I could in fact help everyone with my superior deduction skills,andfound out alot of people would simply rather paint a prety picture over an actual problem rather than face it head on. so as a result I try to accept that most people choose to live their life a certain way because it is most comfortable for them,and it is quite litterally impossible to satisfy everyone.

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    • CompletelyRandom on December 8, 2016

      It’s true that aspies aren’t very good at predicting people’s thoughts, but they often have intentions that are good. You know, they mean well. Other people need to realise this in order to see the true colours of an aspie.
      As for two opposite complementing each other (one logically-brained person, one who’s the opposite), I agree with that, but at the same time couples with a man and a woman who both have AS/ HFA (both very logically minded) may be a great couple as well.

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