Tag Archives: people’s wrong assumptions

To Pass or Not to Pass…

This post is inspired by The Myth of Passing by Cynthia Kim, and The Lie of Social Skills Training by Jodie Van.

Because passing is a myth. So often what we’re doing when we’re passing is simply keeping a lid on our natural tendencies. And sometimes we’re not even doing it very well.

The Myth of Passing by Cynthia Kim of Musings of an Aspie


Cartoon blue pony with rainbow mane and tail walks a tightrope between cliffs
Image: “Tightrope Walk” by Orfearus

What does it mean to pass?

“Passing for normal” if you have a disability, means to mask your disability enough so that so called normal people don’t notice it. For example, if you are deaf but so skilled at lip-reading + hard working at getting by that people forget or don’t realise you are deaf, you’re passing.

They may instead think you are weird though, if they presume that you can hear what they can hear, and think you “ignore” information selectively or even worse, that you are playing social games with them.

Worst of all, if you tried to compete on equal terms in a hearing world as deaf you’d work hundred times harder than everyone else and still not or barely do as well as them on their terms. You’d be in a constant battle to try to piece together information from disorganised bits and hang on to the shared hearing-reality with your fingernails while your errors accumulated. And if you were to work that hard everyday to just try to meet basic expectations, you’d probably soon burn out.

With deafness, the problem is obvious and no one really expects a deaf person to compete with the hearing in a hearing world. No one expects a blind person to pretend to be able to see either.

With Aspergers/high functioning autism which is what Cynthia wrote about, the situation is complex, because many autistic adults are capable of appearing normal and social – to “pass as normal”, at least some of the time and in certain situations.

Jodie has in The Lie of Social Skills Trainin listed some of some key factors that make it difficult for aspies/autistics to socialise on normal terms:

  • sensory processing lag meaning you can’t process the conversation fast enough to keep up
  • trouble turning visual or abstract thoughts into words
  • literal-mindedness leading to misunderstandings
  • lack of executive function for keeping track of social engagements and who’s who
  • reduced amount of energy available for socialising, because so much is drained processing sensory input
  • not necessarily having the same pop-culture grounding as others, thanks to our often eccentric skills and areas of interest

Any one of those things could get in the way of socialising effectively, even for the most socially adept person. Most people on the spectrum have several of those things going on, and some of us have all of them.

The Lie of Social Skills Training by Jodie Van of Letters from Aspergia

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The Art of Perspective Taking

What I wrote about learning perspective taking under “The social error” in History of Bad Parties was about a major milestone in my life and a key social concept which I for the time being ponder quite a lot about.

Perspective taking is a fascinating concept. It implies that life is a sort of multiverse where everybody live in their own variation of the world. Learning to acknowledge that everyone has his or her own unique perception and logic opens up for mind travel through the social multiverse – for visits to others’ worlds, or at least brief snapshots of some of their views. Awareness of perspectives is the dimension that makes life multidimensional and full of nuances rather than flat and black & white.


clipart - alien standing next to spaceship on cliff with weird plants
A spaceship isn’t necessary for travelling alien worlds, after all

The Art of Perspective Taking is the secret super power that enables people to make sense of what other people do and in a more overall sense, what happens in the surrounding world.

And I can see how people who are good perspective takers have a massive social advantage over people who are not. Perspective taking enables people to be empathic and genuinely helpful, but also to manipulate – be political and play mind games.

Perspective taking is an ability that often seems to be taken for granted in adults, but I actually suspect most people cheat with that ability most of the time. They convince themselves and others that they understand everyone’s perspective, but it is more likely they just imagine what they themselves would have done in a similar situation. If others are fairly similar to themselves, then that is probably good enough most of the time.

If they are not, then they’ll get it wrong, but they may not even notice their errors if they are confident of their perspective taking abilities.

I’m used to being in the receiving end of poor perspective taking. Peoples’ assumptions about me are usually way off base when they express them – and probably even more when they don’t. I suspect it goes the other way as well… so I prefer to ask people what they think rather than infer something based on my, with 99% guarantee wrong, assumptions.

I’ve discovered the Art of Perspective Taking unusually late in life, and freely admit that almost everyone I know is better at it than me – better at guessing most other peoples’ reasoning and views and feelings.

I do think I have one big advantage with perspective taking though: namely the awareness that I’m most likely wrong most of the time.

I know my mind works a bit differently from most people, so I can’t just assume that others feel what I would have felt or are drawing conclusions I would have made. Since I can’t rely on my assumptions, I know I have to listen and learn with an open mind. Every person’s perspective is a surprise and a reminder that everyone is different; and that there exists infinitely many versions of existing.

This is the first post of several brewing drafts where I’m trying to get my head around perspective taking and its related concepts.

Illustration by Anarres at Openclipart.org

Parties & Irrelevant Pity

Recently* my husband and I were invited to dinner by someone from Church. Also invited was the pastor and another pastor, who are my husband’s hunting buddies, and their wives.

old clipart of dinner party around a table, to pairs, man raising to toast, black and white drawing

I don’t usually* go to dinners because of my noise sensitivity and to be honest, even without that problem I doubt I would attend many dinners because I’m not really into the social side either, such as mingling with other wives and chatting about random topics. Dinners are ‘just not my cup of tea’ as I explain to some people.

In this case, however, the dinner was held very nearby where we live … just a few houses down on our street, and that made it harder to make a socially acceptable excuse.

The pastor tried to persuade me to come to the dinner, even if just briefly, so I could entertain the other pastor’s wife or something like that. Now, that isn’t a good role to put me in in any case. Out of all forced conversations I can think of, expected wife-chatting is one of the most awkward, and with the noise level there was likely to be in there (I have been there before) that wouldn’t work at all, not even for 10 minutes as he suggested. So I politely maintained my “No Thanks”.

Dinner Day

The day of the dinner came, and it happened that I wasn’t working at that time. I work variable hours, and I didn’t have to go that evening.

The pastor dropped by our house and asked again if I was working and asked me to come. I politely declined, but started to feel quite guilty about it. While my husband dressed up and walked the few steps down to the dinner, I just relaxed at home, increasingly conscious about the fact that it does not look right in the eyes of the community. However, I trust my husband to explain so nobody would take it personal.

When my husband came back from the dinner later in the evening, he said that it had been very noisy, a bit too much even for him. The host has a high pitched voice which she uses eagerly for melodramatic effects, and I would have hated it, he said.

So I ended up being perfectly happy with my decision to stay home, where I had enjoyed myself with undisrupted computer time.

‘So Sorry for You’…

Come Sunday, I met the dinner host in Church, and she said that she felt so sorry for me. My husband had explained to her that I couldn’t come to the dinner because of my over-sensitivity to noise, and she assumed that I must have felt terribly lonely and left out.

She made a comforting face expression and spiced her words with high pitched (ouch!) empathetic vocal sounds, and wanted to give me a hug. I froze in my position where I stood, awkward and hard faced of discomfort, just wanting to shield myself against the intrusive emotional drama that was coming at me. And unwarranted hugs! No thanks!


clipart of depressed black cat sitting at a table with a portion of spaghetti

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that people are inclusive and care about others’ feelings. It feels much better to not be at a party when invited than when not invited (as in “we don’t think you are worthy of our company”). It is just the parties and dinners themselves I’d rather be without, and I am fine without being there.
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