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jennyishere
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01 Apr 2009, 7:59 pm

It's certainly true that in small talk with someone I don't know well I do listen for clues about the person's type of employment, social status and interests. However, I think I do a lot more than just that. I'm also assessing the person in a more general way- I'm looking at the person's physical appearance, grooming and personal hygiene, assessing the person's current mood, guessing his/her age, noting the way he/she speaks, deciding whether the person seems friendly and happy to talk with me and whether we have things in common, deciding how informal or formal my behaviour should be, judging how intelligent and interesting the person is, assessing the person's degree of eye contact and confidence, and probably other things as well.

This all sounds rather complex, clinical and cold-blooded- it does to me as I write it, because I've never really thought about the process so objectively before. The actual content of the small talk doesn't matter much- the conversation is often fairly bland and predictable- but that's probably because we're focusing on absorbing all of the other non-verbal information while we're talking. The small talk is mainly just acceptable background noise while we assess whether we're going to get along, although if the person says anything inappropriate or offensive, that's a bad sign. I suspect most NTs use small talk in this way in any social encounter with a stranger. I can see that this would cause confusion if a person with AS was focusing on the content of the conversation as the main source of information. For NTs, it's probably less about WHAT you say than about HOW you say it.

What do other people think?



Zane
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01 Apr 2009, 8:57 pm

I think it might be important to point out something, sometimes it isn't about being interested in what the topic of discussion is as much as the company you are having it with.

In other words, good company is often as simple as allowing the other person to talk and just simply listening to them speak, not really taking in much more than bits and pieces, but all the while enjoying the company of others.

We (AS nation) tend to make ourselves uncomfortable by over thinking what we can say or could say to become a "part" of the group as opposed to realizing in reality, we are already a part, and in fact by attempting to have "something" to say, we isolate ourselves from the group and or open ourselves up for social banter...

When it comes to playful insults, on average, they are actually a show of affection. In fact it is when "they" are not making fun of you, that you might become worried. Obviously it is up to you to decide how much is too much when it comes to playful banter...how sensitive are you? Or can you understand no one truly means to hurt your feelings at all.

I often get made fun of for the qualities people like most about me. For example, "Oh Zane, you flirt with all of the waitresses, and never succeed" or "Ha-ha, Zane, you always take things so literally" ... I get poked fun at by one of my friends because she loves how gullible I am around people I trust, "I love you Zane, people lie to you all the time, and you BELIEVE them!"

I have a lot of examples. Once you realize the difference between vindictive comments and joking ones you will see things in a new light. The key : just try it out. Basically all you need to do is go to yourself "You know? Maybe they are actually joking...in fact, they are joking, playing around, holy crap! I have NT friends and I am liked!" and that is a very pleasurable experience. It feels like you have finally made it a step closer to becoming social...

The key is in the tone of voice, something NT's just do and something AS nation members must learn to hear...

also often when a guy calls another guy "hey, douche bag, what's up?" in a friendly tone he is joking. But if he says "Hey, douche bag" in a harsher tone he is being aggressive...

checking posture helps also....


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Josie
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02 Apr 2009, 12:01 am

If I am joking around with coworkers I know it's just joking but if it isn't a two way street I take it serious. They make joke with me I may not know it.



Tom
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02 Apr 2009, 2:43 am

I fully agree with everything Jenny and Zane said above this post - theres some good stuff there.



Hovis
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02 Apr 2009, 3:39 am

jennyishere wrote:
The actual content of the small talk doesn't matter much- the conversation is often fairly bland and predictable- but that's probably because we're focusing on absorbing all of the other non-verbal information while we're talking. The small talk is mainly just acceptable background noise while we assess whether we're going to get along, although if the person says anything inappropriate or offensive, that's a bad sign. I suspect most NTs use small talk in this way in any social encounter with a stranger. I can see that this would cause confusion if a person with AS was focusing on the content of the conversation as the main source of information. For NTs, it's probably less about WHAT you say than about HOW you say it.


I'm not sure if this is true for other Aspies as well, but not only do I not focus on most of the non-verbal cues, I actually find it very difficult to do so. If the person's a stranger to me, in particular, I'm concentrating so hard on what's being said to try and make sure I don't miss or misinterpret anything (because I regularly seem to; I respond to something and I can see straight away by the look on the other person's face that something about what I said or the way I said it was wrong) that it doesn't leave me a lot of brain power for taking anything else into account.



jennyishere
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03 Apr 2009, 3:16 am

I'm so sorry, Hovis- it must be tiring to have to concentrate so hard while you're speaking to a stranger and stressful to see that you're being misunderstood.

I suppose because most NTs can read non-verbal cues fairly easily and unconsciously, they can be puzzled and unsupportive when someone with AS is unable to do this.

All of us adapt our speech to suit different situations and listeners, but I guess one problem is that many NTs are unaware of the needs of people with AS and don't make an effort to tailor their communications to be more readily understood. I know that when I am talking with my students who have Asperger's, I will generally speak more literally and not assume that they will realise when I am being humorous.

Actually, I often find the directness and honesty of students with AS rather refreshing.



Hovis
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03 Apr 2009, 4:09 am

jennyishere wrote:
I'm so sorry, Hovis- it must be tiring to have to concentrate so hard while you're speaking to a stranger and stressful to see that you're being misunderstood.


It is a little (I find conversation quite tiring even if I've enjoyed the topic), but mostly it's frustrating. I'm extremely mild AS, and I can read the other person's reaction well enough to see straight away that I've got something very subtly wrong, but I can't try to correct it, because I don't know exactly what it is that's wrong. :?



jennyishere
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04 Apr 2009, 1:29 am

Hovis, I can see that it would be hard to "fix" your slight conversational difficulty if you can't pinpoint it. Have you asked your friends whether they've noticed anything odd about your responses? Perhaps you concentrate so hard in those conversations that you end up interpreting the other person's words too literally and miss some humour or facetiousness. I know that's the most common misunderstanding that I've seen in my conversations with people with AS. Mind you, some NTs also have difficulties with detecting subtle verbal humour, such as sarcasm or irony- my mother often has this problem, even though she's NT.



Amajanshi
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29 May 2009, 1:27 am

Bataar wrote:
The problem for me is that social banter is excruciatingly boring and makes me feel stupid for even trying to participate in it. Not stupid in that I don't get, but stupid that I'm actually lowering myself down to their level. When I weigh the ups and downs of carrying on such a banter, I usually can't find enough positives to outweigh the negatives of boring myself and using energy to put up the facade that I'm interested.

I believe that modern conversation is backwards. In modern societal conversation you make small talk until you are comfortable and then either end the conversation (if you want to call it that) or move on to more serious subjects. Since you don't really learn anything meaningful during small talk, this is when you'll learn more about the person's interests, hobbies, beliefs (religious, political, social, whatever) and you'll learn whether or not you really have any interest in talking with this person. If you decide that you don't have an interest in this person based on more serious topics, then you've just wasted time and energy making small talk with them.

If I'm just meeting someone, why do I want to make small talk with them? I don't know them so I have no real interest in how their weekend was or how their pets are, etc. I only care about that kind of stuff if I already know the person and care for them at some level. Therefore, it makes the most sense to me to start conversations with the more serious topics in mind because you'll find out a lot sooner if the person is someone you want to put the effort in getting to know.

Take a big family gathering for example. I'm sitting at my table, trying to stay sane and people that I haven't talked to in 10 years or so come over and ask me stuff like where I'm working. Now, I'm not mad at these people, I don't dislike them or anything and I make polite conversation with them because you're "supposed" to, but I'd just love to be able to ask them why they bother asking. I mean if they actually had a genuine interest in where I'm working they could have called me, emailed me, etc at any time during the last 10 years to ask where I'm working. The fact that they wait until that time tells me they don't have a genuine interest so it's therefore meaningless. It's just what society has deemed appropriate to do in that situation.


OMG spot on, that's nearly exactly how I feel, although I think discussing personal beliefs are already serious enough topics.

I don't want to engage in joking banter with others, because I feel very fake when I try. People don't find it funny/amusing when I do it, and can tell that I'm "trying too hard", so I don't bother. Why should I try to be something which I'm not? Why should I specially try to please people with humour? I don't want to fall head over heels just to make them happy.

Rarely do I find people who can straight away discuss serious/more complicated topics. It's nearly always trivial things, which I'll kindly get along with if it's something I have knowledge about. But once people start joking and making banter crap, I just go silent coz I don't find it funny, nor do I feel the desire to participate.

I notice that in my course, it's the funny people who seem to have lots of close friends even though they don't have much in common. The people who are serious have far fewer people to hang around daily. It's a shame that for many people, you have to be humorous in order to let them talk about more serious topics to you later on. At first I was pissed off about that coz I don't have that "currency", and I only end up being better friends with the few who I actually have mutual interests or are tolerant of my "blindness"...

But I figure, if the only reason why those people open up and hang around the funny people is due to their humour, then I don't think they're worth being good friends with anyway. I find it very hard to have conversations with people who are quite different from me apart from doing basic introductions. I feel like I don't need to waste my time talking to these people unless I happen to bump into them around Uni or at parties. If I bump into them, then I'll just try to be friendly but in a non-joking manner.