Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships 10

In my last reading of The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, Sean Barron and Temple Grandin talk about flexibility: how not all rules are universal or regarded as absolute.

Sean learned this lesson when (as a teenager) he told on students who were smoking and they did not appreciate his concern for their health. Apparently, his obsession with rules was not well-received by everyone. And Temple distinguishes among rules. Some concern "really bad things" (i.e., murder, rape, stealing), some are rules of courtesy, some are "illegal but not bad" (i.e., driving a little over the speed-limit), and some are "Sins of the System"----things that are frowned upon in one culture but not necessarily in others. Temple notes, for example, that "Being caught smoking marijuana here in the U.S. may result in years in jail; in another country the consequence may be a small monetary fine" (page 132). Temple says that she accepts and does not challenge the Sins of the System because that approach "avoids many socially-complex situations that would require an exorbitant amount of effort on my part to figure out" (page 132). I presume that she means trouble with the law.

On page 122, Temple talks about teaching autistic kids flexibility by using paint: "To understand complex situations, such as when occasionally a good friend does something nasty, I imagine mixing white and black paint. If the friend's behavior is mostly nice, the mixture is a very light gray; if the person is really not a friend then the mixture is a very dark gray." This stood out to me because of the friends I've had who have put me down in a nasty manner, and it made me reflect on any friends to whom I may have been nasty.

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