Dealing with looking like I’m intentionally inconsiderate

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Technogeek
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14 Sep 2016, 2:28 pm

As a 56 year old with Asperger’s, it’s not too rare for strangers to confront me for being “rude” or “inconsiderate” due to a situation in which I’ve had poor awareness and/or understanding of my social environment. As examples, yesterday I unintentionally slowed someone down in a parking lot due to misreading another driver’s intent, and not too long ago I accidentally cut in line at a store because I got so caught up in thinking about physics that I lost awareness of the person ahead of me. I absolutely hate it when I mess up socially like that, but it’s impossible for me to prevent all situations like that from occurring, so I’m just trying to figure out how to diffuse those situations after they have occurred.

The usual behavior that works to diffuse a situation in which I have failed to meet some social expectation of me is to apologize and offer an explanation, as in “I’m sorry I’m late; I got stuck in traffic.” However, that behavior doesn’t seem to work in situations where the other person thinks that I’ve been intentionally inconsiderate in order to save a little time. Instead, in those situations, my apology is taken to be insincere, and my explanation of the confusion I had that led to the situation is taken to be a lie. I’ve been trying to brainstorm alternative behaviors I could try in such situations, but none of the ideas I’ve been able to think of seem like they would work all that great:

• If I simply ignore the person who’s chewing me out, I think my lack of an attempted defense would be taken as an admission that I really was guilty of being intentionally inconsiderate. Not responding would also be considered to be rude, which would only make the other person even madder with me than they already are.

• If I explained that I have Asperger’s, the other person would presumably be more likely to believe that the situation really was due to social confusion on my part, instead of being intentional. However, that would feel horribly invasive of my privacy to be talking about my mental condition with a stranger.

• I could theoretically give the person what they want, so that they will leave me alone. I think the reason people chew me out in such situations is to humiliate me, in order to make me think twice about being inconsiderate like that in the future. So I could in theory pretend that my behavior was indeed intentional, and say something like “whoops, you caught me being rude. How embarrassing.” However, I don’t have good lying skills, so there’s no way I could pull off an act like that.

• What I feel like doing is first offering an apology and an honest explanation, and then if they presume that I’m lying, say something like “well, it’s rude of you to assume that I’m being a liar when I’m not, so f**k you.” However, that would only escalate matters, and be counterproductive.

Does anybody have a behavior that works well for them in the situation of being confronted by a stranger because poor social awareness on your part has made the stranger think that you’re being intentionally inconsiderate in order to save a little time?



kraftiekortie
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14 Sep 2016, 7:37 pm

Similar things happen to me.

I apologize when it's called for.

Otherwise, I just go on my way, and hopefully learn for the next time (I don't always "learn for the next time LOL--but at least I have the intention to do so).

In order to have a decent life, you just have to slough off some of this stuff---unless you really harmed somebody in the process of making your "faux pas."



animalcrackers
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14 Sep 2016, 9:17 pm

With cutting someone off in line, I would apologize, try to say how I wasn't paying attention and give them back their spot -- I think giving them back their spot in line is probably the most important part. Beyond that there's really nothing you can do.

If they remained enraged and were carrying on about me being rude, I might say, "Yes, you're right it's rude to cut ahead of people in line, again I'm very sorry" or just apologize again to try to de-escalate the situation. After that, I'd ignore them; Somebody who can't stop berating you and let it go after that is being extremely rude themselves -- and whatever their problem is, it goes beyond you accidentally cutting ahead of them.

If you can't sort of "undo" whatever happened, speaking to the other person's possible perspective (if you can....this part is hard for me to do on the spot -- or at all, sometimes -- I'm not sure I ever actually have except in written apologies) might help prevent someone from deciding you're just a lying jerk who hurts people on purpose. Like if you're late, saying, "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting/inconvenienced you like this, I know you're very busy/must have other things to do after this/[etc.]"....it would be ridiculous for them to start carrying on about how you aren't considering their perspective after you clearly demonstrate that you're considering their perspective.


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biblophile
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15 Sep 2016, 1:08 pm

that happens to me all the time. I have been accused of being rude, aloof, or a snob. I always feel terrible if I think I have offended someone. I always end up apologizing, and feeling guilty the rest of the day



nurseangela
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15 Sep 2016, 1:28 pm

For the example of cutting in line.......

Correct the situation by getting back where you should be. Most of the time the person will just say to stay where you are and that it's "ok". They still won't like what you did - there's no way around that.

If it's after the fact, then apologize.

Cutting in line is very rude and is not something that will be overlooked because everyone is in a hurry these days.


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Technogeek
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16 Sep 2016, 6:36 pm

When I accidentally cut in line, by the way, I did immediately grab my items back off the counter and let the other person go first as soon as I became aware of my error, and I did say “I’m sorry” and basically explain that I wasn’t aware that there was still someone ahead of me in line. But I got a biting, sarcastic response to my apology anyway, that made it clear that my explanation wasn’t believed.

Thanks for everyone’s comments. It sounds like I’m already doing everything I should reasonably be doing in these situations, and I should just work on developing a thick skin and ignoring it if people think that I’m being intentionally inconsiderate and lying about it, instead of dwelling on the incident for days.