Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships 4

I'm still reading The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron. Temple seems to have an attitude that I have observed among many people with Asperger's Syndrome, especially those who have attained success: that we learn social skills through practice, and, in the process, we learn what to do and what not to do.

I think that there's a degree of wisdom to that. But I don't think that it's always that simple. As I think back, I can identify things that I should not have done. I should not have bluntly spoken my mind on many occasions. I should have paid attention to what was being said so that I wouldn't look like an idiot by asking a question that has already been addressed (and I'm not talking here about times when people throw me a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo, I ask a question, and then I'm told that the question has already been answered). I should have greeted people by name.

But then there are times when I look back and I haven't the slightest idea what I did wrong. But I have the impression that I did something wrong because people are treating me coldly. For example, when I tell someone to have a good day, why does she react coldly? When someone offers to do something for me, and I say "Thank you, I appreciate it", why does that person then look at me like I've committed the unpardonable sin? Should I have had more of a happy "bounce" in my voice? Should I have been less stiff and timid? I suppose that I can add more of a bounce to my voice, but then the problem there is that people can find that annoying, and I get tired trying to appear happy all of the time. As far as being less stiff and timid goes, I'm not sure how to do that. Social situations are stressful to me, especially when I feel that people are judging my every move.

On some level, Temple appears to be sensitive to these concerns. She lauds the 1950s-1960s, when people were clear about what was socially appropriate and what was socially inappropriate, rather than leaving people to wonder what exactly they did wrong. Temple also presents learning social skills as a lifelong process, something that is not exhausted by simply taking a course. Temple herself practices social skills through interaction, and she also learns about what makes people tick through reading.

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