Ok, so I’m planning on making two main points here, which can be summed up, very roughly as follows:
1. You don’t get me.
2. You don’t need to get me.
Now, number 1 is a very broad generalization that isn’t actually entirely true. Lots of people have various forms of shared experiences and can, to a degree, understand each other, or at least certain aspects of each other. Maybe you are also on the autism spectrum, maybe you are also an adult, maybe you also have a non-standard experience of gender. The more things we have in common, the greater an understanding of each other we can have.
However, our understanding will never be complete. There will always be things about other people that we just don’t get. Things that are confusing, that don’t make sense to us, things that seem like they *should* be another way.
I’m an introvert. Introverts (at least, particularly strong introverts) make up around 25% of the population. The other 75% of the population is made up of extroverts and ambiverts. Point being, introverts are in the minority. As an introvert, I’ve had a few experiences with extroverts that all went roughly the same way.
extrovert: You should like socializing in groups.
me: well, I don’t. I like socializing one-on-one.
extrovert: no, that makes no sense because Reasons. Just try it, you’ll see.
me: I have tried it, many times. I’m not like you, and I find it much easier to socialize one on one.
extrovert: I don’t get it, therefore I don’t accept it. You must be wrong.
Seriously, that is not cool. Don’t do that, by the way. As an introvert (a really strong introvert) I find extroversion baffling. I don’t get it. Getting energy from people? Enjoying socializing in groups? This makes no sense. If I were to assume my own experiences were universal, I would conclude that extroverts are all fooling themselves.
Of course, they’re not. I know this. Because I don’t actually have to get it. I’ll never get it, it will never make sense to me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t accept it. There are people out there, lots of people out there, who honestly enjoy group socialization. Who find it easy and relaxing. There are people out there who like, even prefer, spontaneity in their social life. There are people who don’t need routines, or who experiences routines as ruts.
I don’t get any of that. But I accept it. Sadly, sometimes it seems like people aren’t offering very much acceptance in return. Not only that, but all too often I see people say “I don’t get it” as just another way of saying “I don’t accept it, you must be wrong.” That’s not cool at all. You don’t need to get it in order to accept it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that even if you can get it, you’re better off accepting first, and then getting to the understanding bit. Because in the end, acceptance is more important.
I also think the phrase “I understand” is overused. People seem to think saying “I understand” is a good way to show compassion. Maybe I’m strange, but I don’t find this to be the case. I mean, it can be nice if it’s coming from a person who really does understand. However, if you have no experience with anxiety or depression or being on the autism spectrum or whatever else, then you clearly do *not* understand if I am having difficulty in one of those areas. Personally, I’d rather not be lied to. Also, I don’t need you to understand. I need you to accept that what I am saying is true, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. I need you to tell me that you care and you’re here for me, even if you don’t really get it. That, in my book, is compassion. Certainly not faking an understanding that you don’t have.
Most people are not like me. Being a woman on the autism spectrum, I am in a minority. Most people are not going to understand how I experience the world, and that’s ok. All I ask for is acceptance. I want to be heard and believed.