Conversation skills; what have you learnt?

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AJisHere
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03 Jan 2016, 12:54 am

Here's some things I've learned. Not nearly all of it, but some key points in a very general sense:

1. Don't take stuff personally

This goes for everyone, autistic or not. Really, barely anything people do that upsets you is about you at all. It's not worth getting all worked up over or worrying about. Even the guy who just randomly told you to "go f**k yourself" is probably just having a lousy day. If someone hasn't explicitly made it personal? Treat it like it isn't. You'll feel a lot better.

2. Don't expect people to remember what you did

This is a good thing. If I do something strange, something that's "autistic", nobody's likely to remember it a few days later (unless I make a joke of it, which I do at times). Take note of it and move on. It does also mean you have to do good/nice things repeatedly to make an impact, though.

3. Small talk is inherently trivial, but important

It's hard for most of us to do. It got way easier though when I realized all you're really doing is talking about stuff nobody in the conversation really cares much about and which can't really go anywhere that could cause problems. Lose the idea that it means anything and it just flows naturally after a while.

Yes, the words themselves serve no purpose. They're there as a foundation for future interactions that do mean something. That's key.

4. Note what people say about themselves

If you remember something someone said about themselves they'll usually be pretty pleased you remembered. It shows you're somebody to them. I think for a lot of us it gets mentally logged under "uninteresting and unimportant". Try not to do that, it's a missed opportunity.

Spiderpig wrote:
Not really. The moment I stop following those rules, I know I'm about to get in trouble. Needless to say, I usually talk to people as little as possible in real life.


Wow... sorry to hear that. :( Not... really sure what else to say.


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0_equals_true
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04 Jan 2016, 1:18 pm

Great stuff.

"Let things go" also applies to stuff the other person has said. There is no point being pedantic or hold them to a standard that is impossible to meet, this is not relaxing for them.

Over-planning conversations is a bad strategy. It sort of relates to social anxiety trying to per-emtp the result. Much of what you plan to say may not happen, or it will be forced. I think because I think about a lot of things generally, I usually find something to talk about when necessary, however this is after the small talk.



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10 Jan 2016, 2:01 am

Don't analyze for solutions to problems. If something terrible happened to someone or if something trivial happened that they're acting very upset over, they're probably not telling you about it to get your to fix the problem. They might just want you to listen and empathize. To show you care. To validate their feelings and fact that their experience was very emotional. Make lots of empathetic sounds and exclamations to express that you are feeling similarly as they are feeling as they relate their story and generally you don't want to judge their emotional reaction even if it seems weird, just support them as if you would have felt the same way about their experience.

This applies to really positive things too. Don't get wrapped up in immediately talking about the details and implications of a new positive revelation until you've celebrated with the person and congratulated them. Let them milk it and bask in the free-flowing serotonin as they relive their good news.

It's important for NT's to express emotions longer and more viscerally than I believe is entirely necessary. Sometimes people know they're wrong or being silly or annoying you about something seemingly unimportant but they're probably doing it because they need you to make them feel *heard* and give them some emotional support. (lol, I'm picturing a bowed crutch holding up an amorphous cloud of emotion)



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10 Jan 2016, 4:06 pm

Many people ask questions they don't want answered or already know that answer they want. What they need is encouragement. This even happens on WP.

However if is a really bad idea, I still feel obliged to tell them. Whether this will be taken well or not.

Generally though people just want someone to to listen them. Personal I'm game on occasion, however if they are offloading constantly they really need more professional help.

Sjero I agree with you, however once you know people better you can be much more frank with them and I prefer this.



Cyllya1
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13 Jan 2016, 1:51 am

Being assertive:
Don't be hostile
"Pass the Bean Dip" technique for unsolicited advice (respond briefly, then change the subject)
"Broken record" technique standing your ground (you keep saying essentially the same thing until the take the hint and give up)

If you need to lodge a complaint so that a problem will be corrected, you can do it in a way that avoids criticizing the receiver of the complaint.

For example, suppose you're taking a class and your teacher graded your test incorrectly:
Bad: "Hey, you graded my test wrong."
Good: "Hey, there's an error with how my test was graded."

Just because someone says something about a topic on which you have an opinion doesn't necessarily mean you have to give your opinion. Or, try to state a fact about yourself instead of giving your opinion. For example, you can say, "I didn't like that movie," instead of, "That was a bad movie."

Blaming and criticism rarely get you what you want.

Use "I Language"-- Basically, when you have a disagreement with someone, you talk about yourself or the concrete facts of the situation, instead of blaming or criticizing the other person.

Use stuff like "I think..." a lot seems to help.

Often you can say something agreeably and get the same result (or better) as if you were argumentative. Might as well be agreeable.

Trying to do something does not automatically mean you actually are doing it. That applies just as much to "being nice" as it does to anything else.

Everyone hates unsolicited advice.

If someone talks about a problem they are having, they are not necessarily trying to solicit advice!

"How are you?" is some kind of figure of speech. "Good; how are you?" is pretty much the only correct response in most situations.

A lot of people like to talk about themselves. Sometimes if you're trying to get on someone's good side, you can make it easy for them to talk about themselves or their interests by asking about them, but this isn't always effective.

If someone tries to talk about something that happened to them, they will often be annoyed if you talk about your own similar experiences before they're done with what they want to say.

I try to be forgiving of people's nonverbal behavior (e.g. they use an annoyed tone of voice when the situation is frustrating).

Everyone wants to be treated with respect.

Some people like to talk more than others. They just find conversation to be a relaxing activity that helps them bond with people. (This is a separate thing from introversion-versus-extroversion.) I think most of us on here are on the not-very-talkative end of the talkativeness spectrum.


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Lockheart
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13 Jan 2016, 7:13 am

AJisHere wrote:
My problem right now is that I'm not very receptive to people doing that to me. I tend to kind of freak out when people want to know anything about me.


Haha, me too. Makes things awkward if I'm talking to someone who also clings to the 'ask questions if all else fails' technique.



NotaHero
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13 Jan 2016, 11:03 am

Cyllya1 wrote:
Being assertive:
Trying to do something does not automatically mean you actually are doing it. That applies just as much to "being nice" as it does to anything else.

Lot of good advice Cyllya1. This is the one I have to remind myself of the most, but doing that test my ability for both self awareness and seeing things from the other person's point of view.



Grammar Geek
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13 Jan 2016, 11:23 am

Why should I ask how the other person is too after "how are you"? I'll say "fine," then they'll say something similar. Conversations can't spawn from that, so what's the point?



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13 Jan 2016, 1:19 pm

Grammar Geek wrote:
Why should I ask how the other person is too after "how are you"? I'll say "fine," then they'll say something similar. Conversations can't spawn from that, so what's the point?


In the UK if they ask how you are, depending on the inflection, they may not be interested in knowing or having long a discussion on it. "Fine" is the appropriate answer.

In fact the phrase "you alright?" or "alright?" actually more of a rhetorical greeting that anything else and you will get asked it all the time (partially southern England). "Alright mate?" is equivalent to "how it going, buddy?"

It is perfectly normal to respond with "alright" or "good thanks".



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13 Jan 2016, 4:12 pm

Grammar Geek wrote:
Why should I ask how the other person is too after "how are you"? I'll say "fine," then they'll say something similar. Conversations can't spawn from that, so what's the point?


Not true, that's actually how most conversations start. It's just what you say as an introduction to the conversation. Be thankful that you don't live in the kind of place where a greeting is very long, how are you, how's your family, how are your livestock, how are your crops etc. and then eventually you can carry on with your day or continue on to the topic of conversation you actually wanted to talk to the person about.



tcorrielus
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18 Jan 2016, 1:48 pm

AJisHere wrote:
Ask people about themselves. Really, it helps a lot.


What kinds of questions should I ask people? I don't want to ask questions that people consider to be inappropriate or those that can offend others.



AJisHere
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18 Jan 2016, 5:28 pm

tcorrielus wrote:
What kinds of questions should I ask people? I don't want to ask questions that people consider to be inappropriate or those that can offend others.


There are unfortunately no hard and fast rules for this, but tt depends on how well you know the person. If it's someone new? Stuff like what they do for a living, what they do for fun (if they expect you to reciprocate on this one, keep it brief!), and inane things like that. Things that every human being pretty much has in common and doesn't go too deep.

If you know the person better you can ask a bit more. You already know what their job is. How's work been? You know what they do for fun. Have they done anything cool with that lately? Maybe they like to read. Have they read any good books recently? You can always just ask them how they've been and let them talk about how they're feeling.

Inappropriate topics take practice to figure out. Politics and religion are minefields. Asking someone very personal questions needs to be worked up to. No topic is likely to be truly off-limits, but some are off-limits in certain situations. You make mistakes learning this, but then so does everyone.

My biggest bit of advice is to observe people and note what they do in these situations. You'll start to see patterns.


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19 Jan 2016, 6:17 pm

Apparently nothing. :P



Spiderpig
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20 Jan 2016, 12:14 am

Cyllya1 wrote:
If you need to lodge a complaint so that a problem will be corrected, you can do it in a way that avoids criticizing the receiver of the complaint.

For example, suppose you're taking a class and your teacher graded your test incorrectly:
Bad: "Hey, you graded my test wrong."
Good: "Hey, there's an error with how my test was graded."


Easily countered by the broken-record technique you've just mentioned, and by getting offended anyway. Getting offended and getting it to matter is the privilege of those in power.

Cyllya1 wrote:
Just because someone says something about a topic on which you have an opinion doesn't necessarily mean you have to give your opinion. Or, try to state a fact about yourself instead of giving your opinion. For example, you can say, "I didn't like that movie," instead of, "That was a bad movie."


I usually do that, and, unsurprisingly, always find myself in a position of absolute inferiority to those who behave the other way. After all, what good is my mere like or dislike for a movie when they authoritatively inform me it is bad or good, respectively? Challenging the status of what they say as objective truth would be a personal affront to them, the kind which used to be settled by a duel.

Cyllya1 wrote:
Blaming and criticism rarely get you what you want.


It works like a charm for making me feel bad about my choices and goals.

Cyllya1 wrote:
Use stuff like "I think..." a lot seems to help.


Been there, done that, gotten systematically invalidated by merely highlighting, "You think"---i.e., "your view is useless and unworthy of consideration, because you aren't sure and don't know the objective truth like I do".

Cyllya1 wrote:
Everyone hates unsolicited advice.


That's why those who can afford to be nasty do it so much. The way to remind you of your low status is to make you suffer---otherwise, you could forget you're below them in the hierarchy. It works best when it's hard to tell advice from orders, so you feel compelled to obey all the crap they hurl your way or else.

Cyllya1 wrote:
"How are you?" is some kind of figure of speech. "Good; how are you?" is pretty much the only correct response in most situations.


To me, "How are you?" is an intrusive and unwelcome interrogation, which doesn't feel nice at all. That's why I answer it as laconically as I can get away with, and avoid returning it. I much prefer a simple "hello" or its more formal equivalents.


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Spiderpig
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20 Jan 2016, 12:52 am

Cyllya1 wrote:
Being assertive:
Don't be hostile
"Pass the Bean Dip" technique for unsolicited advice (respond briefly, then change the subject)


I can't do that without making it painfully obvious I'm fleeing from the original subject and I have something to hide. It feels dirty and cowardly to me (more cowardly than I usually feel, that is). I usually wait for the other person to change the subject when they decide they've interrogated me enough.

Cyllya1 wrote:
Broken record" technique standing your ground (you keep saying essentially the same thing until the take the hint and give up)


I don't think even my worst enemy deserves the kind of wanton invalidation you show when you keep repeating yourself, as if nothing they say could possibly amount to anything and any disagreement with you could only be due to not having parsed correctly your words of wisdom. Besides, that's what people do in any kind of discussion, preëmptively thwarting any real debate. I hate that behavior with a passion. It always puts me in a position of absolute inferiority, regardless of each side's merits.


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Cyllya1
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20 Jan 2016, 3:16 am

Spiderpig wrote:


There's an assertiveness technique called fogging that may be handy for dealing with people who are openly hostile. (Conversational hostility, of course. If they're trying to physically beat you up, you're better off with... pretty much anything other than fogging.) Personally, I have little experience with it. I am fortunate to live in a place where that kind of open hostility is Socially Unacceptable, so anyone who acts that way effectively neutralizes themselves.

Conversing/communicating well could help when you have to deal with a hostile person by going to someone with authority over them. That person may or may not be well-intentioned, but being an argumentative snotbucket to them and their subordinate probably won't win you any points regardless. If going all the way to the top of the ladder doesn't help... you've got bigger problems than conversation :(

Quote:
I can't do that without making it painfully obvious I'm fleeing from the original subject and I have something to hide. It feels dirty and cowardly to me (more cowardly than I usually feel, that is). I usually wait for the other person to change the subject when they decide they've interrogated me enough.


"Pass the bean dip" is more for when they're making statements/assertions, or for when they're asking a question just as a lead-in to giving you advice. For someone haranguing you with questions, it's probably better to decline to answer ("It's a personal matter" or another reason or even just "I'm not going to answer that") and use the "broken record." Yeah, it'll be obvious that you're "fleeing," but we're talking about assertiveness here: asserting your own right not to answer is the whole point.


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