Ok, this one is actually not so random. It is, in fact, directly connected to RST#2, but important enough that I decided it deserved its own post.
So! Random Social Tip #3 is: Shut up and listen.
Ok, this particular tip is important in many different contexts (and maybe I’ll write about more of them someday) but in this instance, I mean it in terms of social connection and conversation.
In my last tip, I talked about the importance of asking questions to show interest. Well, after you ask a question, it is equally important to be quiet and listen to the answer. Now, admittedly, this is not universal. There are people out there who like noisy, fast-paced conversations with words flying around everywhere.
Thing is, I am not one of those people. And there are many many people out there like me, who also do not do conversation that way. If you want to talk to us and have it actually be a conversation rather than you just talking away, you absolutely have to take the time to be quiet and listen.
Sometimes I see people talking about how autistic people often need time, time where you are not talking but waiting, to respond to a question or comment. So I thought I would add a little bit about what is going on in my head when I sit silently for a little bit before answering a question someone may have asked me. First of all, as I tend to talk about, words push on me. When a person is filling the air between us with lots and lots of words, I feel pressed upon and shoved away. Before I speak, I need to wait for some of those words to clear so that I have room to speak and breathe. And I’m sure to a person who does those noisy, fast-paced conversations what I am saying here makes no sense. But sense or not, it is my reality and this is what I need.
Also, I can either listen to you, or I can process what you said, come up with a response, and get that response to my mouth. I absolutely cannot do both at the same time. This leaves us with two basic options – either you give me some quiet space while I do that processing so I can answer you, or I tune you out for a little bit while I work on that processing and replying. The second option is absolutely terrible. Not only is it generally considered rude, but it is difficult, stressful, and painful for me to do. If I am in a situation like that, I will often resort to writing what I have to say, just because speaking it is so difficult. Yet for some reason, some people just insist on constantly talking. I’ve even had people be clearly waiting for a reply, expectantly looking at me, while continuing to talk and talk and talk. In the meantime, I was waiting for them to stop talking so I would be able to reply. This is a frustrating situation. Please do not be one of the people who creates it. Remember to shut up and listen.