Saturday, December 5, 2015

Reading Between the Lines (don't, there's nothing there)

I was just reading Asperger's Awareness - Bryan's Advocacy on Facebook. I enjoy that page even though I see some things differently than he does. Anyway, he was talking about the fact that when talking to an Aspie it's important to forget eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and reading between the lines and just focus on the actual words. I have to take a minute to agree completely with this.

There have been many times in my life when I've thought something happened randomly at a fortuitous time, and which I only realized later may have come about because of something I said which I didn't even realize would be taken in such a way as to prompt someone to do something. I know this is kind of vague.

Let me give some examples, but first I must explain that I often think out loud to fill silences because my husband tends to think that I am "ignoring him" when I am quiet and doing my own thing. So sometimes I struggle to find something sufficiently inane to fill the silence and usually I have nothing to fit the need so I just think out loud since my brain is always running down two or three different tracks anyway. May as well let one narrate.

So, yeah. Sometimes that "thinking out loud" is taken as communication, and not only that, but taken as though I'm "getting at something" (hint: I"m never getting at anything except what I"m saying).

Like, I will often say "I wish Dunkin Donuts delivered hot lattes. I don't feel like going all the way down there." My husband will hear this and almost 100% of the time, he will get up either cheerfully or with a sigh and say "I guess I can go get you one". I love it when this happens but I was thinking it was a completely selfless display of affection until one time recently when he didn't say that and instead just looked a little angry. I asked him what was wrong and he said "nothing. It's just that I *just* got home and I really don't want to have to go back out right now". I was like, "what happened, did someone text you about a job or something?" all confused. Why would he HAVE to go back out right now? And he explained "no but you obviously want me to go get you a latte but it's 15 minutes each way and I just got home". I explained to him that I only had nothing to say and didn't want us sitting in a quiet room with me feeling fine and him feeling uncomfortable so I said that because I often say that and I know it's a "safe" phrase that won't start any arguments or anything.

Now I know better and will text him to ask him to bring one home with him if I think I will want a latte. But I didn't know. I wasn't fishing for him to offer. I was just wishing. I mean come on how many people have wished that before? Probably plenty!

Another example - the other day I was borrowing someone's vehicle because mine was in the shop and they graciously offered to let us borrow their second car that they rarely use. They aren't someone I"m close to, they're actually more my husband's "people", so when I ended up at the same function as them and had to find something to say above and beyond "thank you again for letting us borrow your vehicle", I didn't know what to say but felt on the spot to say SOMETHING. So, I figured I'd compliment their car, that should be a nice thing to do, right? So I told them how much better their vehicle is with gas than mine and then my brain of course did the math quickly and so I spit that figure out as well, how much I could save in gas money in a normal week and how much that equals in a month and how much that adds up to over a year's time. They looked a little uncomfortable and then said that since they knew we were going out of town this weekend on a day trip, they would allow us to borrow it over the weekend as well, since they didn't want us to have to overpay for gas. This seemed like a very nice but unexpected thing for them to do. I was surprised and confused because we weren't even talking about this weekend or my trip or anything else, so I was not sure why they changed the subject completely and then randomly interjected that we could keep the car longer, until I came home and went back over the entire interaction in my head and realized they probably thought that I was fishing for them to offer it. As often happens after social interactions, I felt embarrassed and guilty when I realized that.

One more - my in-laws have helped us many times to pay for unexpected expenses and things like that when we've had more things to deal with than money to so. One time recently they were talking about the addition we had built on the house with their help about 7 years or so ago. I said something like "maybe one of these days we will be able to get some carpeting back there so it's not just plywood floors. But at least we have the space to work with now." My in-laws looked at one another and then one of them hesitatingly said that they guessed maybe they could help us to pay to get it carpeted. I knew instantly that time that I had put my foot in my mouth and implied accidentally that we wanted their help. I was just making conversation. They mentioned the addition, I pictured it, and in the mental image I saw the largest surface in the room - the floor - and noticed it wasn't carpeted, so I said it out loud to fill the void because I never know what to say to keep a conversation moving. I did NOT mean to imply they need to do even MORE for us and put in carpeting!

I do this all the time I guess. I almost never notice until days later. If you just focus on the words and forget about "reading between the lines" we will communicate WAY better. If I"m standing in your closet and you're showing me your shoe collection it's going to logically make me think of my own shoes and I might say "wow my shoes are all so old and worn out I wish I had a closet full of shoes like you". I am NOT implying I want you to give me shoes, buy me shoes, let me borrow shoes. I am saying that I also have shoes, then I"m telling you about them. It's conversation. Stop making it so difficult! You say what you mean, I"ll say what I mean, we'll both be happy. Okay? Okay!

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