Imagine being in a strange country where you don’t understand the mores – and aren’t aware you don’t understand them. Say, waiting for scrambled eggs to show up for breakfast in Tel Aviv (They eat salad for breakfast.), or saying a friendly “Hi” to young indigenous men in the jungles of Ecuador, wondering why they then followed you in a pack (Looking into a man’s eyes means a woman is ready for sex.).
The events can be interpreted by both cultures. But in the case of Aspies, we’re sort of stuck: you Neuro Typicals (NTs) make the rules. And they are crazy.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
As an Aspie, my internal rules, my assumptions, my responses, are different from a NTs. My perception of what’s going on is in a different universe. I hear metamessages primarily, content secondarily, and I respond according to what the Speaker intended rather than what my (biased) ears interpret. I think in systems and experience the world in wholes, in circles, in patterns so I experience entirety, not segments of sequences.
From my vantage point, NTs – largely thinking sequentially, in a horizontal world that compares everything against a biased norm – make rules that fit a standard I cannot fathom. Yet somehow, with the majority of humans on the NT scale, there’s agreement that those rules make sense. They don’t.
Why should I reply “Fine, thanks. How are you?” when someone asks how I am? It’s a real question, right? Does that mean they don’t want to know? If they don’t care, why did they ask in the first place? And how did it get agreed that a meaningless exchange is an authentic greeting? I’ll never understand.
Why am I labeled inappropriate when I respond to something differently than ‘expected’? Who says NTs are the ones who understand accurately? Maybe my references and responses are the correct way of seeing and NTs are just following herd thinking. Maybe my references and responses are a great ‘add’ to a conversation that expands the scope of the subject.
Why am I the one being too direct? Why aren’t you being more honest?
Why am I the one who’s deemed too intense? Why are you so superficial?
I recently watched my 7 year old friend throw a small toy across the room where his four younger sibs played on the floor. Stop throwing that, said Dad, afraid the little ones might get hurt. My friend again threw the toy. Stop, or I’ll take it away, said Dad. Again, the toy went across the room. Give me that. No more toy.
I said to my young friend, “Your dad was afraid the toy might hurt your brothers and sister. What were you hoping to accomplish by throwing that toy?”
“I wanted to understand how it was spinning.”
“So next time, tell Dad what you want to do and he’ll let you go outside to throw it.”
THINKING IN SYSTEMS LEADS TO MORE CREATIVITY
My Aspie brain perceives a wholly different culture from the world of NTs, with expectations, referents, assumptions, thinking systems, rules, and different interpretations. I personally have a wholly different understanding of what’s happening – a difference that enabled me to develop new models for conscious choice, so different from making unconscious decisions from long-held biases and assumptions. Indeed, I have devoted my life to unraveling, (de)coding, each step of unconscious systems to make them conscious so everyone can make congruent choices – and then making the new thinking understandable and usable by others in books and courses.
Thinking in systems has made my life rich with creativity. I have the ability to translate, and develop models to scale, how brains make decisions and how systemic change occurs. And while I’ve trained my models to sales folks and leaders in global corporations for decades with highly successful results, I continue to be judged negatively against the norms of the NT world. One noted neuroscientist said my thinking, my models are not possible, although he never asked what they’re comprised of. Somehow, ‘different’ goes with ‘aberrant’ or ‘eccentric.’
How, I wonder, does the world change unless the outliers like me instigate radical change? You can’t do that from the middle. And if more NTs were willing to be curious, look through a different lens, it wouldn’t take people like me decades to instill productive ideas.
RIGHT VS WRONG
So that brings me to my question: How do Aspies end up being the ones who are wrong or on the wrong side of normal? I’ve been shunned at invitation-only conferences of author-colleagues (when I was the only one with a New York Times bestseller), ignored at parties, thrown out of events (by very, very famous people), not invited to an event every other person at the table was invited to – and invited in front of me, while I was the one person obviously, meticulously, excluded.
Why? Because my ideas, my speaking patterns, are different? Because they challenge the norm? Why isn’t that exciting? Or fun? Or interesting?
Geesh – I show up in nice clothes, I’ve got a respected professional reputation, I speak well, wrote a bunch of books and train global corporations in my original models. So I guess I’m a bit smart. I don’t harm anyone, have a decent personality, am generous and supportive. I’m even funny.
And yet. And yet, I say ‘wrong’ stuff, and tell unseemly stories when my brain references something that others don’t reference. And instead of going ‘Cool Beans!’ ‘That was interesting!’ Or ‘That was weird, SD. Where did your brain go on that?’ My work gets overlooked, although it can make an important difference in several fields – sales, healthcare, coaching, management, leadership. What rules am I breaking that aren’t worthy of curiosity? Or kind acceptance? Or humor? Or excitement?
I heard a comic once ask why men were the ones in the wrong for leaving the toilet seat up. Why wasn’t the woman wrong for leaving it down? Same toilet seat. Up. Down. What makes one wrong?
The good news about Aspies is that we’re often pretty smart. Because we think in systems and can see all aspects of something (NTs think sequentially and miss whole swathes of real data – the reason Aspies often think NTs are dumb.), we often are the innovators, the visionaries, who notice, invent, code stuff decades before academics or scientists. Yet folks like Tesla, and Cezanne die without their work having relevance. I read that the only painting Cezanne ever sold was to Matisse who wanted to study the painting to learn how Cezanne did what he did. Why didn’t others recognize Cezanne was to be learned from rather than derided? Why is the easiest route the one that ignores, avoids, derides?
I was running programs for internal sales folks at Bethlehem Steel. After a year of working successfully with Dan at their Sparrows Point, MD group, I was being handed over to the Burns Harbor MI group. Dan invited the new manager to lunch to meet me as a hand over. We all spoke for a bit of time, and as I got up to go to the restroom, I heard the Burns Harbor manager say to Dan, “Is she always like this??” to which he replied, “Oh yes! And you’ll learn to love her.”
In these days of more openness and a real desire to accept minorities, to communicate and live without bias, maybe it’s time that Aspies are acknowledged as well. Maybe when NTs hear someone say something that’s a bit off the mark, or rattle on about a topic that’s interesting albeit a bit long winded (We get SO excited by our topics!), maybe they can just say, ‘Hm. Sounds like an Aspie. I wonder what I can learn here. I wonder if I can be curious about something new.’ Then we, too, can have a voice. And just maybe we can become a welcome addition, add our two cents, and maybe make the world a better place because of our differences. Just sayin’.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor of Buying Facilitation®, Facilitative Questions, 13 steps of systemic change, and the HOW of change. Author of the award winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com and 9 books including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew trains, coaches, speaks in several industries, including sales, healthcare, communication, change, Servant Leadership. She lives on a houseboat in Portland OR and can be reached at email@example.com
Sharon Drew Morgen July 15th, 2019