When I talk with people I don’t know well, I struggle to read the dynamics of our conversation. I’ve found that people tend to over-explain things to me, as if I’m slow to catch on. I call this the “I’m not sure you really understand what I’m saying” tone. It’s hard enough that I misread social signs.
For instance, sometimes when people are explaining things, I read in hostility or criticism that isn’t really there, and it stills me. When people’s faces make sudden movements, I sometimes feel scared because it takes me more time to figure out what they may mean. Sometimes I say things to fill in awkward conversational spaces. Many times what I say is on-topic but not fully “spot-on.” This causes people to start explaining like I was born yesterday.
Unfortunately a remark that’s meant to be clarifying sometimes feels insulting. That’s because I can’t verbalize all that I pick up on. I can in writing or music, but not in regular speech. As we know, speech and body language are how people make judgments. If I could, I would primarily communicate through writing and music, but that’s not how the world works.
In an office, the employee with NLD should be put in charge of the projects that take advantage of his/her strengths, such as written communication, research, and listening. Employers need help with these very important skills, but interviews don’t usually give people chances to show how well they work and what they’re good at. So when people use the “not sure you really understand me” tone, it’s hard for me not to feel slighted.
Even though my reaction is irrational and not really helpful, it has an element of accuracy. I am hurt that people don’t see my intelligence or talents, especially when I see and praise their wonderful qualities. People with NLD have a beautiful capacity to be very kind to others, and to contribute excellently to communities, to be peaceful. These skills are the basics of a healthy society, but too often social mis-perception interrupts the execution of these compassionate values. This shouldn’t be. Ignorance needs to be a thing of the past. I will try and briefly reconstruct one of the conversations I’m talking about.
SOMEONE ELSE: “So we’re trying to do this program to help feed children . . ..”
ME: “It sounds like a good idea.”
SOMEONE ELSE: “Yes.”
ME: “Maybe the focus of this program relates to homelessness.”
SOMEONE ELSE: “Yes, but what we’re trying to do is help children through school breakfast programs . . ..”
The tough-to-digest phrase is in bold and italics. It could be just explaining something, but there’s also that zing of “this person doesn’t really get it.” I may not be describing this that well, but I hope this begins to put into words what I’ve seen happen. I couldn’t remember a real conversation, but if I do, I’ll blog it.