Communication Is Broken

How do you ask without being perceived by the other party as an idiot or, at best, not worth the time? And if you get an answer, how do you judge its veracity and sincerity?


Because it’s completely legitimate to say that the other person should respect their means of communicating…
How is that not entirely legitimate? Is it because it comes from me?


If the other party perceives you as an idiot, try one time to be clear, without treating them as though they think you’re an idiot. If that doesn’t work, and they do in fact perceive you to be an idiot, why are you even wasting your time with them?

If the person is a fairly reasonable human, capable of critical thought and demonstrative of such, then it shouldn’t be a problem. As for the veracity and sincerity, um, trust your gut above all else, perhaps?


They don’t believe me, because I’m just an autistic person* instead of an autism researcher or celebrity autism figurehead. Besides, by not communicating with them on their terms 100% of the time, I’m either trying to shut down communication or trying to be coddled :roll_eyes:

*although they would insist on calling me a “person with autism” assuming they had to refer to me at all


Some people aren’t worth it, even when they’re gatekeeping or otherwise unavoidable.


You know, my son is ASD, with adult ADHD and clinical depression. So I don’t know what it’s like to be that way, but I’ve seen how he’s been treated. First of all, a lot of people don’t know right off what he’s diagnosed with because um, it doesn’t really come up; secondly, I brought him up not to ever use his disability or his being a white male to get away with anything.

Anyone who would ever consider him to be “just” any old thing…why would he or anyone else want to deal with someone like that?

But hey, that’s just us.


I don’t know what to say that won’t offend you, so you’re right and I’m wrong.


That last sentence, it doesn’t work when your gut instinct is only right half the time. As for perception, yes, it is often necessary to deal with people who, if you ask this sort of question think you’re an idiot. Maybe they’re clients or maybe they’re ethics professors whose course you need to pass in order to graduate.

I don’t get where you get the idea that this has anything to do with you specifically or why you find it insulting. You said, in essence, “ask someone what they mean instead of trying to read signals that you find hard to interpret”, something that I’ve been being told since I was a child, to the point where I could point to that statement as being the epitome of “microaggression”. But I’ve never gotten an answer as to how.

I mean, it’s not like I haven’t tried asking what someone meant or whether they meant what I thought they meant (they didn’t about as often as they did) and haven’t gotten burned by it. I worked for 13 years for a group of clients and, when I told them I was going to leave, they were effusive in their praise for me and how they wished I would stay… I still have no idea if any of it was legitimate. I know not all of it was legitimate (one of them accidentally sent an email to me instead of my successor and said all kinds of shit about how difficult dealing with my autistic ass was), but was any of it? Did anyone actually appreciate what I did for them? I have no idea and, I feel like I have no way to find out. I’m not far enough along the spectrum that I’m not hit with a profound sense of isolation when I think back on those 13 years and it keeps me up at night.

So, I asked my question as straightforwardly as I possibly can[*]. You seem to think people like @LearnedCoward can find out what other people are thinking by asking. So please, tell me how? How do I do that without endangering my livelihood (done that), profoundly insulting the person I’m asking (case in point), destroying long term friendships (sort of done that, but maybe they were never my friend?) or seeming like a needy child (done that)? Because, speaking for myself, it would help profoundly and maybe we’d get along better.

[*]And yeah, I was very hesitant about asking and hemmed and hawed about how or whether to ask before saying “fuck it, this is Elsewhere, it’s a safe space, after all, so I should just ask straight out.”


The thread has been split to preserve readability of the original topic.

Human communication is the art of using words to relay stories. We do not always succeed due to several factors. Words do not have set meanings; they are contextual and subjective.

The art of relationship and business communication also relies on a buggy* feature in the brain: mental predictave modelling. Mental Predictave Modelling allows users to visualize possible outcomes and solutions, whether it be crosswords, traffic, or more crucially, conversation. With enough experience, a skilled user is sometmes able to predict the reactions of others in conversation, in faster-than-real-time. However, it’s buggy and not always accurate.

Social conditioning can enhance or sabatoge the ability to read situations. The Rom-com trope of “playing hard to get” is an example of pervasive and pernicious sabatoging social conditioning.

I am recovering from a night of Drenga, please forgive my lack of brevity.

Humans are naturally drawn to stories. Relationships are built on listening to and telling stories: events, current mental state, state of attraction, and statements of caring. When this breaks down, so too, does the relationship. This can be invisible to some or all involved.

There isn’t always ulterior motive to statments or actions. Active communication requires focus. Given our sloppy software stack we call the human mind, it isn’t always possible to achieve focus.

Trust is key to communication.

Anywho. Communication is broken. The beet we can do is try to tell stories and listen to (and draw out) each others. Because ultimately, we need to try if we are to survive as a species.


This really sparked for me, because I was explicitly taught it as a communication method. My mum is a master at it and calls it “acting blonde” (reference to the characters Marilyn Monroe usually played).

Basically, you’re voluntarily being vulnerable to ensure clarity.

There are ways to couch it so you don’t lose face. In fact, I find it often works even better when you’re explicit about it. Introducing the “dumb question” with things like:

“Just to make sure we’re on the same page”

“Let me double-check”

“Just so I can give you a specific answer”

“Let me ask the dumb question”

“Just to verify”

“Okay, and you’re asking for X because you’re expecting Y right?”

makes it clear you’re clarifying and verifying, as opposed to just asking out of the blue.

I’ve found this sort of stuff is crucial when dealing with people from other sub-cultures: they work in a different place, or come from a different part of the country, or went to a different school, or whatever. If they were from a different culture entirely they’d expect more of a gap, but because it’s sub-cultures more overlap is expected, and that’s where acting dumb for clarity really helps.

It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, but being willingly vulnerable is not weakness. Brené Brown has made a big chunk of her career off exploring exactly how that works:


So, it’s wrong to suggest to that you should actively communicate with people about your needs, and it is in fact a “microaggression”?

I seem to think we ALL can do that, actually. Even for those of us who are neurotypical, we STILL have to ask what someone means or to be clear, at the risk of offending others. Being neurotypical isn’t some magical situation where you instantly get all people’s hidden meanings perfectly correct, just by looking at them. It might be easier, for sure, but all human beings can misunderstand others.

So if you are not willing to discuss your needs with your intimate partner especially when it comes to communication (which is what we’re discussing here, not work or anything like that), how are you just not as liable for miscommunication as a neurotypical individual? If a neurotypical individual is evasive or refuses to be clear about their needs, they are being problematic in a relationship. Is it easy to say what you need? No, it’s not for ANYONE, because it leaves you vulnerable, regardless. Is it tougher for people who have various forms of neurdiversity? You bet. Literally NO ONE here has said otherwise. But I know plenty of women on the spectrum (both here and IRL) who understand what works for them, and DO the hard work of negotiating their relationships (often) successfully. Are neurodiverse men somehow different in that?

Another question: If someone you’re in a relationship with straight up says to you “this thing bothers me, and I wish you wouldn’t do it” - is that not an example of clear communication that you can fully grok as a neurodiverse individual? Do you then either stop doing the thing or do you ignore the person if it’s something that you like to do? How is that person meant to respond if you just ignore their request?


This is great, and it’s fucking hard… not just for the neurodiverse. It’s hard for all of us (though with varying degrees). It’s probably easier for a woman to be vulnerable, because we’re all social conditioned to be vulnerable. It’s likely harder for men to do so, and can easily turn into toxic masculinity (the refusal to be vulnerable at all, to the detriment of one’s own mental and physical health).


That. Yes.