People with Autistic Spectrum Conditions often misinterpret the verbal and nonverbal social cues that most people take for granted. These are some things you may, or may not of course, notice about yourself:
You are confused because someone is not paying attention to what you have said – the way they have seen it is that you have interrupted their conversation, with something you wanted to talk about but is not relevant to what they were saying.
You let their attention wander because you are bored, distracted, confused or don’t understand what the other person is trying to tell you – but this makes it look as if you don’t consider what others are saying is important.
You may talk on and on about a subject that interests you. You may notice others are not paying the attention you would like to you, or you may simply not notice that they are becoming bored or exasperated until someone else tells you or they get annoyed. They may have heard you talk about the same things many times before.
As a result, people with ASCs are sometimes seen as rude, insensitive, and socially inept.
Social communication is unfortunately not one of the greater strengths of ASCs and these qualities can take their toll on your self-esteem when you find yourself lonely and isolated, unable to make and maintain friendships and relationships.
However, you can work on noticing and understanding how other people are communicating with their words, facial expressions, and body language.
Learn to Listen – Focus carefully on the speaker and try to think that what is being said is the most important information you need to hear right now. This shows you are paying attention, and other people like that. They like to talk about themselves and what interests them too, and know that you are listening to them.
Check your understanding – Ask the other person to make sure you got the information right. Repeat back what you think they said and ask if that is right, then pay attention to their answer. You might find it tiring, but the more you practice the better you will get at paying attention for longer.
Pace your conversation – Pause after each differerent point you make in a conversation, and wait for a response before continuing to talk. A bit like taking turns in a game. Listen carefully to the other person’s response.
Practice! – Rehearse speaking and listening skills, such as focusing on other people’s words and waiting for a response, with a friend or support group. Choose people you admire as role models and watch how they communicate – just make sure they are good role models for you! – Check this out with someone you trust to make sure it is a style you should be copying.
Difference and Diversity – just because someone else does not share your fanscination, views and opinions of your favourite subject does not mean you can’t be friends. They will make an effort to listen carefully to what interests you if you make the effort to listen to what interests them too. This is how we widen our views, thoughts and horizons generally, and it’s fun!
Play to your strengths – Being a good listener doesn’t mean you have to hide your knowledge or sense of humour. The trick is to be the clever, fun person you are without monopolising the conversation.