Aspies, masters of the awkward question

I don't usually mean to be rude or even impolite. I try to be pleasant and respectful, even in the face of extreme provocation. If pushed, I'll be more likely to resort to unexpected sarcasm or pointing out (helpfully) how and why you went wrong. I'm rarely out-and-out bad mannered.

So, it often comes as a surprise when people react as if I spat on their foot. I mean it, this is as close an analogy as I can think of to describe the sudden backwards flinch, with the lip rising in thinly-veiled horror. I do want to be clear - I haven't spat on their foot, and if I tried, I would definitely miss.

What I have done is Enter Into A Conversation. I do often warn myself off this, as it ends badly or chugs along nicely, until I replay it afterwards and realise I had it all wrong and gave a strange impression (again). In trying to speak to someone in a normal way, I'll do what comes naturally: ask questions.

I'm interested, you see. If someone has my attention, they are already winning and if they are managing to keep my attention, the conversation can't be half bad. So it is only natural for me to want to learn more and ask pertinent questions. This is a compliment!

What I don't always understand is that the other person only wants to talk and not really interact. They want to tell me their news or carry on with their diatribe, without me butting in and stopping the narrative flow by being a part of the conversation.

Although I'll be asking a question that is wholly relevant, they often still see it as a burden to have to slow down and answer it before continuing. Or they wave it away and promise to come back to it (but never do).

I've thought about this and realise that it falls under the category of in-depth understanding: the other person isn't interested in me fully understanding their subject of conversation - they only want superficial understanding so that they can rattle on without me piping up in the middle of it. This means that me asking a question which requires an answer - rather than a rhetorical one, which helps the flow - is an awkward bump on the road which means they have to divert or slow down.

Their other issue is that if they do fully have my attention, I won't be put off when I ask the question. I must know the answer! If I didn't want to know the answer, then I probably wouldn't have asked. And if they don't reply, or fudge the answer hoping to throw me off track, then I'll come back, quick as lickety-split and ask again, assuming they haven't understood what I want to know.

You see, if I have a full conversation with someone, about a subject I'm interested in and know about, I love it if the other person asks a question. It shows they share my enthusiasm or want to know more. And I rarely get diverted for long from my subject if I'm really into it, so answering a question becomes part of the rich landscape of that whole conversation.

I'm not sure how I'm meant to tell the difference between someone who wants to have a proper conversation, or someone who just want to hear the sound of their own voice and use me as a convenient audience at the time. How do you know before putting your foot in it and asking questions they don't want to answer?

Also, the consequence of them behaving in this way is that if they don't answer my question, or they try to power on as if I haven't spoken, then I'm very likely to leave the conversation altogether, either politely, by developing a sudden (and inventive) excuse or just walking off.

Readers, it's not my fault if people can't cope when their audience departs to the bar, or out the back door or starts to pick up the first soft tomato. People should be more aware of what they are getting into when they invite an aspie to talk to them. Don't they know how risky it can be to perform to such a brutally honest and direct audience?

Well, if they don't at the start of the show, they certainly do by the end.


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