How You Can Work With People Better

A lot of times, we Aspies find it hard to work with people.  And that makes sense, since people are ridiculous, insane creatures that say they want one thing and then go do another.  And for another thing, people can be downright scary at times.

Before I go any further, I want to make it known that even though some people believe those afflicted with Asperger Syndrome aren’t human, we are.  So with the title of this post being what it is, understand that the reason I chose to phrase it that way is in response to the self-imposed isolation brought about by the experiences many of us have with others.  Even the more extroverted Aspies have a tendency to eventually find comfort within a sort of shell, because other people can be a lot of trouble (and even a pain) to deal with.

Human beings are a sociable species, after all.  We don’t have a choice but to interact with each other.  Anyone who chooses total isolation will be destined to fail at most endeavors, and even with a completely online existence, the effects on a person’s psyche can be pretty brutal.

Have you ever noticed that a lot of times, people will practice that cognitive dissonance silliness, where they’ll make up all kinds of excuses as to why they aren’t getting what they want?  But if you logically suggest something that will actually help them to get what they want, they act like you’ve personally insulted them?  Don’t take this the wrong way, but there’s a good chance that you do precisely the same thing from time to time.

See, unlike what some people believe about us Aspies, we’re actually as human as the next naked apes.  and when we work with people, we need to remember that their problems are often the very same as ours.  And in some cases, the problems that we see in someone else may actually just be us projecting our own problems onto someone who doesn’t even have them in the first place.

Here are a few common problems you’ll find in working with people.  After I describe the problems, I’ll give you some solutions I’ve found for dealing with them.

1. People are undependable.

Often times, you’ll ask somebody to do something for you, and they won’t do it.  They’ll make promise after promise, and then you’ll have to all but force them to do it, or just do it yourself.  This only increases the isolation a lot of people (both Aspies and NTs) tend to experience in a world where a “normal” house size is 3,000 square feet, and a lot of your best friends are people you’ve only met online.

After all, why would you want to associate with people, when it seems like asking them to actually do something is just a matter of setting yourself up for frustration and shattered hopes?  As sane individuals, it makes sense that we sort of retract into “whatever, I’ll just do it myself.”

2. People lie.

If you’ve never been lied to, you exist in a world unknown to the rest of us.  When you work with people (or even when you’re just around people), you will be lied to at some point.  And this is especially true for us Aspies, because the people who lie the most maliciously (instead of those who only do so for purposes of sociability) inevitably prey on our overly trusting, generally honest natures.

If you tell the whole truth, don’t you occasionally lie about something or other?  Think about why you individually do so (and please, leave comments about it below)- does it create more solutions or problems?

3. People pursue contrary goals.

A lot of times, we Aspies are accused of being generally contrary individuals.  Some people even misspell “Aspie” as “asshole.”  And there’s really no excuse for treating other people as if they were nothing more than objects designed to serve one’s own goals.  If you’ve been doing that, stop immediately.

If someone tries to do that to you, whether they be Aspie or Neurotypical, don’t allow them to continue with it.  The same rules that govern your behavior need to also govern the behaviors of others.  And if we were speaking in person, I would jokingly finish my previous sentence with, “…and maybe we won’t cut them.”  Unfortunately, the world is not set up justly enough to allow us to administer our own sort of “backwoods justice.”

Now that we’ve covered three problems, let’s talk about some solutions to them.

When dealing with people, observe what they do.  Never point out when they’re being incongruent, as you’ll do nothing but alienate them.  If you have to work with an undependable person, limit yourself to only the most critical occasions of association.

For instance, if you know someone who is often late to appointments, don’t make appointments with them on a set schedule- just set the day when you’ll be meeting with them for whatever business demands your association.  Do things throughout your day as you would if you didn’t intend to meet with them, with instructions that they should call you when they’re actually ready to meet.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to allow flaky people to be trusted to do things like this, it does separate out the merely irresponsible (the folks who “live in the moment” but actually want to work with you) from the genuinely malicious.  Those who call might be worth keeping around.  If a person says they’ll call or show up twice, but fail both times, they no longer deserve any effort on your part.

You may still pick up the phone for a person who has been “excommunicated,” but if they ask you to meet with them somewhere, you have the right to insist that they come to you.  If they stand you up a third time, you have permission to see their number, and let them go to voicemail.

As for people who lie to you, you need to first understand why they lie.  In some cases, they lie to avoid hurting your feelings.  In their minds, you’ll never find out the truth, so they can avoid causing any discomfort, either for themselves or for you.  Of course, the truth eventually comes out no matter what, but neurotypicals never seem to realize that.

Some ways to notice when a person is lying include their body language and the amount of talking they do.  You’re going to have to be very consciously observant, since body language interpretation is not among our strongest suits.  Your first step is to notice how the person stands, talks and gestures under normal circumstances.

Once you know this, you can identify a lot of deception on their part based on whether they deviate from their standard body language.  For instance, if they begin to move irregularly, gesture more or less, or if they give unusual lengths of answer to your questions (such as over-explaining something when they would normally just give you a 7-second “sound bite” answer), there is a reasonable possibility they may be lying.
When you detect a possible lie, mentally file it away without calling them on it.  Without proof, you seem paranoid.  And in some cases, you may very well be inaccurate- sometimes something else is causing them anxiety, which can also elicit deviations from one’s standard body language.

When you work with people, you will inevitably run into all sorts of reasons to lie.  If the boss wants to know why something went wrong, anyone who wants to keep their incentives (ie vacations, raises, or even their job) intact is going to be inclined to at least sugar-coat the truth.  And it’s a rare (and often severely punished) employee who tells the whole truth, when they’re involved in whatever went wrong.

People who lie to defend themselves generally aren’t being malicious about it, unless there was maliciousness in the original activity.  If there was, to call them on it makes you a whistle-blower.  If there wasn’t, calling them on it just makes you a dick.

If the person lied in order to keep something from you which could result in your harm, you have every right to gather all the evidence you need, call them on their lie, and then expect compensation of some sort.  Granted, the compensation may be nothing more than an apology (nice, cheap words), and it may involve paying you several thousand dollars for damages rendered.  No Internet blog can tell you too much about the specifics of your situation.

Now, as for people who pursue goals which run contrary to your own- that’s great!  One of the first things you need to understand when you work with people is that everyone wants different things.  And while in some cases these alterior motives can be irritating, they exist for two very important purposes:

a. To test the importance of what you’re doing.

If your goals are ridiculous and your plans are feeble, you will most likely fail.  It’s not the fault of someone else’s goals.  It’s your own fault for foolish goal selection and ineffective goal execution.  Don’t take this the wrong way- after all, failing often teaches you important lessons about what you need to get stronger at, or actions you need to avoid later on.

The good news is, if your goals are powerful in your mind, and your plans are well thought out and executed with a steady intention, you have every reason to succeed in whatever you wish to achieve.  Aspies can move mountains, you know.  And if you watch certain films made in the 90s, villagers can turn hills into mountains.

b. To enhance and even accelerate your goals.

You may be of the mindset that one person’s success must necessarily equal another’s failure.  This is absolute falacy!  Usually, when you add value to someone else, they add value to you, as well.  Just keep in mind that most people are perfectly willing to accept more value than they’re willing to provide in return.

If you get a sense that someone wants you to give way more than they’re willing to reward you with, you need to ask yourself if this is a temporary situation for you.  If you’ll still be doing this in five years, you need to renegotiate, and push for what you really want and need.  If you bring something great to the table, it’s worth fighting for.

Just keep in mind that there’s a difference between competition and creation.  When you create something in concert with someone else, it isn’t about ego.  It’s not about who did more.  When you work with people, you can combine your skills into being more than any individual operating outside of the group could have produced on their own.  It’s about how the ideas of the various group members help to encourage everyone else’s ideas.

Imagine that someone else’s completely different idea actually pointed out flaws in your own original concept.  While your ego would rush to defend itself, would that help anything?  Of course not.  Isn’t it better to see the flaws you put down on paper, before you put them up for the world to shoot down?  A lot of very expensive failures could’ve been avoided in the past, had more people been willing to entertain and work with the goals of others, instead of simply trying to jam their ideas down the world’s collective throat.

This may turn into a series of different articles on various ways that Aspies can work with people, and generally function more effectively in this neurotypical-dominated world.

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Aspergers and Adults

A lot of people think that Aspergers Syndrome is just a “children’s disease” – uh, no.  Aspergers and adults are a bit like air and a tire.  Just because the tire seems a little bit less full of air, doesn’t mean the air has gone away.  Okay, that reference was a little off.  Or maybe I’m just full of hot air.

I could say a lot of things about Aspergers and adults.  I could say that no, autism of any kind is not necessarily lethal when you turn 18, or 21… or 27, so far as I’ve personally scouted out.  When it comes to Aspergers and adults, a pretty significant part of the world (including a decent amount of the health community) thinks that something spontaneously changes between being an aspie child and attaining the age of majority.

A whole lot of pixels have been sacrificed to talking about how much we Aspies are nothing but whiny little wastes of skin – and unfortunately, some of us really do make the rest look pretty bad.  After all, there are just too many people out there who use any excuse they can get away with to justify acting like total douches.

The biggest problem with Aspergers and adults is remembering that being an adult doesn’t just come from being physically “full grown,” or from having attained a certain number of years.  We have to actually act like adults… and take responsibility for how we handle ourselves.  Chris Chan (who insults my first name by sharing it) may be about the same age as I am, but he hardly fits my definition of an adult.

For one thing, being able to control your temper is a pretty nice way to act a little more grown up.  And it really isn’t even that hard, when you stop taking things so freaking personally.  The biggest thing about Aspergers and adults is that we need to hold ourselves responsible for what we do, and how we relate to other people.

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Find Employment as an Aspie by Doing What You’re Good At

I don’t like to talk too much about myself, because I resent the stigma we Aspies have as being self-absorbed.  Granted, I am mostly about myself, but there’s no sense dragging my innocent readers through that particular brand of sludge.  But in this case, I’m going to have to torment you with a bit of a story – maybe you’ll learn something from it.

See, I’ve always been a very creative individual.  You could even say that it’s one of my Aspie gifts, and to stifle or ignore it would be a disservice to everyone whom it might touch in a positive way.  However, the way in which I once chose to express it was… sub-optimally successful, to put it in the nicest possible terms.

In real people terms, it was a screwed up waste of time, money and energy, and had very few benefits for anyone.  Now, I can’t turn back the clock and pull a Sam Beckett, and I might be a little scared to do that in the first place – after all, where I currently am isn’t that bad.  And contentment is a decent place to be for awhile.

But when I look back  at how I’ve used my creativity, I regret the time and money I wasted on it.  Back in high school, I discovered (and battered people with) the fact that I can write well.  There is no arrogance in my tone whatsoever when I declare that I have an unusually high level of writing talent.  And I wrote (other than just school work) just about every day in high school, starting my sophomore year.
But 3 years, a few short stories, roughly 300 poems and a screenplay later… I was fed up with it.  Writing wasn’t getting me any praise (which is a dumb reason to do anything), and it wasn’t exciting me all that much.  So I decided to go into visual art.

And while I did like that the visual arts allowed me to make things (which I’ve done since childhood, and am somewhat good at), I also liked the idea that I wouldn’t have to bother writing the endless number of reports necessary of most other majors.  Granted, I did write a fair number, and I did demolish them, but I just didn’t like doing a lot of writing.

Something I’ve noticed about the Aspie lifestyle is that we tend to get into a particular interest, and stick with it for awhile.  Of course, over time there’s a tendency to drift out of any given interest.  Maybe it’s just how life moves, and maybe it’s just simple boredom, but it’s nigh undeniable.  But we’re a stubborn lot, aren’t we?

From my freshman year of college until a few months ago, I worked as a freelance artist.  I developed web sites (including a webcomic, and my now-defunct portfolio site), participated in over 50 exhibitions all over the country, and did projects for people when they desired something unique for their decor.

And I sucked.  If you click on the link to my webcomic, you’ll see that it absolutely blows.  My drawing quality was mediocre on its best day… but people actually complimented the writing.  How about that, huh?

Then I discovered a site that lets me do freelance writing projects, and… well, suffice it to say that in four solid months of getting little projects to do, I’ve made about twice as much money as I did over nine years of hustling as hard as I could, all over the country in the visual arts.

And for a couple of years, I catalogued every penny I spent on the visual arts (for tax deductions)… and I refuse to show you those figures, because I do have the ability to be embarrassed.  And it ought to be a law that no one may embarrass himself on his own blog.

For the writing, I’ve spent less than $2, for a microphone that works really well, and lets me do things so much more effectively.  Yes, $2 – I can make that back on ANY job, and that’s it.  Of course, I still have to spend on electricity, the internet, etc., but that’s splitting hairs.  I’d already be spending on those things anyway, so I don’t count them.

Let’s just say that, while I could live on what I make from writing (at my current lifestyle), there is no possible way I could live on what I made from the arts.  Though I actually won a scholarship and two national awards (and a multitude of sales and commissions), there is just no contest – writing wins.

Just don’t think that the decision to give up on the visual arts was an easy one for me.  I love to make things – and I still do, when time and space permit it.  I mean, the time between needful tasks, and the space to store my finished products – I’m not getting metaphysical on you.

Not to mention the fact that as an Aspie (and indeed, as a human being), it’s difficult to look objectively and say, “Yep, I was wrong.”  For the longest time, I struggled with the question of whether or not I was an artist.

I can make a decent piece every so often, and I have a strong creative drive… but for all intents and purposes, I’m not an artist anymore.  And that sentence kind of hurt to write – the same way it hurt to not renew my art site’s domain name and hosting.

And do not think for an instant that I’m in love with writing.  It’s a pain.  It takes up time which I could be spending doing fun, frivolous things, and I tend to become gut-wrenchingly terrified that what I’ve poured my efforts into may be considered absolute crap… and need to be redone.  After I’ve already gotten the NEXT job.  That scares the living hell out of me.

And while it is very nice to be able to sit at home and make money by doing something that comes reasonably easily to me, without having the issues of in-person social interaction – wait, that part rules.  Every cloud has a silver lining – that’s not just a cliche.

So after all of that, there actually is a moral to be learned in this.  It’s that at some point, when you’re spending and not earning, you have to cut your losses and move on with your life in another direction.

And you might not even be that big of a fan of what you have to do – but if it pays you, you can do it, and you’re good at it, go ahead.  Embrace your special skills – as long as they’re legal and don’t hurt anybody who doesn’t consent to it.

And it’s not like I had to entirely give up on my dream.  With the money I make from writing, I can buy art supplies aplenty.  And I always have gifts to give… even if they’re a trifle idiosyncratic.

By the way, if you guys have any similar thoughts on changing professions (or just changing your mind) as an Aspie, spout off in the comments section below.

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Aspie Dating

I haven’t had a date in months.  Obviously, my ability to attract a woman is both rusty and neglected.  When I have valuable intel, I’ll let you know.

Just keep in mind that it is always best to focus on how the woman thinks.  When you see a beautiful woman, remember that she has fears, insecurities and worries of her own.  Don’t add to them, help her forget about them.

Our biggest problem is generally that we’re so tense.  Your life is not in danger, so play it cool.  Give her a gentle smile, say hi, and maybe a conversation will come out of it.  And maybe she’ll think you’re a loser and roll her eyes.

I’ve had it go either of those ways.  And amazingly, I’m still alive.

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How to Deal With Internal “Rules”

I recently read an entry into the Encyclopedia Dramatica about Asperger’s Syndrome – and like all posts on that site, it pulled no punches.

Simply put, most of the world sees us as nothing more than lazy, whiny people who try to impose ever-changing rules on the rest of humanity, as an impotent attempt on our parts to feel safe and secure, when we should really just suck it up and deal with life.

It’s true, that is how everybody else does things.  It’s hard to imagine to there’s a person in this world who hasn’t felt like just “laying down the law” on half a dozen occasions, when other people are being unreasonable but can’t be avoided.

So here’s a quick primer on rules, and how you need to apply them in your own life (but not everybody else’s):

1. Your rules apply to you.  They are how you guide your life without being taken advantage of, and also how you keep some semblance of internal security in place.  Generally, your rules need to be introverted, which means you don’t share them with others (unless they break one and harm you), and you keep them focused on your life.

2. You may not impose rules on other people, in such a way as it causes them harm or does not directly spare you from harm.  If the jars go on the top shelf, and someone else puts them on the middle shelf, unless you own the house and they are subordinate to you in the family hierarchy (ie, your child), do not make a big deal out of this.  Simply put it “where it belongs,” and get on with your life.

After all, minor “rule breaking” doesn’t hurt you that badly, does it?  Besides, doesn’t it feel good to take the proverbial bull by the horns, and exercise control over your own environment?  Nobody will complain if you reorganize a closet, or put a sparkling shine on the bathroom.  And in time, others will respect how well you care for your environment (just like with a manicured lawn).

If a rule actually hurts you (such as “don’t call me retarded”), THEN you may interject and defend yourself.  Don’t sit there and be harmed, physically or emotionally.  Just keep it civil and polite, unless the other person escalates it.

If another person is somehow harmed by your rule, DELETE IT.  You DO NOT have the right to harm other people without due provocation.  Just as they do not the right to harm you.

3. You must accept that your rules are very small and only significant to you.  This is part of the reason why you shouldn’t share your rules with other people, unless they specifically ask about such things.

We Aspies have a bad habit (and a worse reputation) of going on and on about things that concern absolutely nobody around us.  Now, I have to admit, it can be fun to “bug” somebody.  But it’s a great way to find yourself alienating people who could be great friends (or more).

Just relax, and use your rules for their intended purpose – to protect and guide YOU.

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How to get to sleep faster

One of the fundamental issues we Aspies face is that it often takes us a really long time to fall asleep.  In fact, one of the defining cornerstones of many clinical diagnoses is that it takes the average Aspie more than half an hour to fall asleep.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t realize that most people fall asleep faster until I was told.  At 24 years old.  Yeah, my developmental issues are sometimes painfully apparent – but, I’m working to fix them.  And if you suffer the same problem I do, here are some solutions that work for me.

1. Get rid of caffeine.

I cut out caffeinated beverages and chocolate (which has caffeine) years ago, and it shaved some time off of my sleep-inducing time.  While this sounds like a trite piece of advice, it seriously works.  After all, how can you sleep properly with a bunch of stimulants bouncing around in your system?

2. Plan to have longer than you need.

I hate math quizzes as much as the next guy, but here’s an easy one.  If you need to sleep eight hours, and it takes you two hours to fall asleep, how much time do you actually need to allocate for sleeping?  Yep, ten hours it is.  You need sleep, so adapt to how much time you actually need.

3. Eat more than four hours before bedtime.

In the four hours before you go to bed, your insulin levels drop.  That means that eating right before bed is more likely to make you gain fat.  But aside from that, eating a short time before bed can actually hurt your ability to sleep.

It’s especially apparent if, like me, you sleep on your stomach.  A full stomach does not appreciate having you lay on it.

4. Find someone to cuddle with.

If you have the ability to find a person of your sexual preference who enjoys cuddling with you, do so!  Aside from the oxytocin benefits you’ll receive from the physical contact, I have anecdotal evidence that, cuddled up, I can fall asleep in five to ten minutes.  Women are the best kind of pillows, IMO.

5. Exhaust yourself.

One way I’ve found that lets me get to sleep earlier is to continue onward until I am near the point of passing out from exhaustion.  When I’m in a “full production” mode of writing, I will often write until 6 or 7 in the morning – and then practically crash right after brushing my teeth.  It’s definitely a way to make sure you get to sleep quickly – and it gives your writing a sort of fatigued charm.

If you’ll notice, this post was published at around 4 am.  Not coincidental.

6. Do it your own way.

If you all have any solutions I haven’t thought of, shout ’em out in the comments section.  Granted, you don’t really need to shout – typing will do, obviously.

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How to Control Aspie Rage

Note: I originally wrote this post, but it did not save. I actually controlled my anger… but it was still irritating.

If you experience what I call Aspie Rage, this post is for you. I experience it from time to time, even though I’m a pretty light Aspie. Asperger’s Syndrome has a tendency to lessen our ability to cope with certain types of stimuli – which makes us lose our cool at moments that many people would see as inopportune, strange or completely inappropriate.

The reasons for Aspie Rage can be as numerous as we are.  Perhaps someone violated one of your rules.  Perhaps someone has insulted you.  Maybe someone is just asking a question while you think, and it really angers you.  Regardless of how you’re feeling, snapping at people is unacceptable.

Years ago, I read a report in which a researcher had gone up to some birds nests and rearranged them.  Then these scientists (who were probably Neurotypicals) actually seemed to be surprised when the birds displayed signs of stress upon returning to their materially altered nests.

If a person came into your home and rearranged your furniture without your consent (or even knowledge), you would have the right to be upset.  If someone who lives in your home with you rearranged the furniture, that could be a reasonable cause of perturbment.

But of course, there are also times when we are just thinking of something, and it has us getting more and more riled up… and then someone interjects.  The person to whom we thrust our anger has often had nothing to do with our ire… they just got caught in the path of the proverbial tornado.

I know that when people have scammed or taken advantage of me in the past, it has hurt and angered me to the point of thinking some seriously cruel thoughts on what I would enjoy doing to them.  I wrote that correctly – even though years have passed since the major scams of my life unfolded, I would STILL like to do some truly awful things to those people.  But taking out that anger on the innocent bystanders of my life is just wrong.  So I have to move past the crap.

At some level, all anger derives from feeling somehow threatened.  As Aspies, some of us are a bit easily offended and threatened.  Let’s discuss a few ways we can keep this from boiling over unexpectedly.

1. Focus on good things.

Bad things happen – it’s an unfortunate consequence of life.  But even if several bad things have all happened in the past 24 hours, and you’re still reeling from the bad things that occurred last week… there’s probably still a healthy supply of good in your life.

And if all else fails, you’re still alive.  You still have the chance to build some good things, even if you have absolutely none.  That’s pretty good, isn’t it?

2. Decide how bad the situation is.

I’ve often found that I can put things in perspective by assigning them a numerical category.  For instance, I can make a scale of 1-10, and have them represent the bad things in life.  A 1 might be that I forgot a non-urgent letter I intended to mail today – a mild annoyance, as I can just mail it tomorrow.

What’s a 10?  I’m thinking that a 10 would be drowning in a flaming, oil-filled sea while my flesh burns and a series of scary, gnarly-toothed sea creatures chomps at my limbs and genitals – while people who could help me just hang around on their fancy boat and make smart-ass comments on my final moments in this world.  That would be pretty bad, wouldn’t you agree?

Seriously, if something isn’t at least a three or four, it’s probably not worth fussing over too much.  Let it go, or it’ll drag you under.

3. Breathe deeply.

A meditation technique I’ve used in the past is to breathe deeply, while focusing on one point of your nostrils.  Whenever a thought tries to break through, push it away – you are focusing on your nostrils.  The deep breathing will allow your body to calm down, and the focus will let you escape the overload.

While many Aspies already meditate and practice self-hypnosis, I had to learn to do this.  I used to get overwhelmed all the time.

4. Pause.

If you can, notice when you are getting angry with someone or something.  When you can feel the anger rising upward, give it time to dissipate quietly.  It may mean you delay a few seconds before responding to a question, but it will also mean that you will respond in a more socially acceptable manner.

5. Accept that change is a part of life.

One problem that many of us struggle with is one that NTs often outgrow at a reasonably early age – we don’t often adapt well to change.  If someone changes something in our lives, we flip out, even if we realize that we’re being irrational.

But when you think about it, change is just how life moves onward.  If someone rearranged the furniture, it might be because they grew tired of it being that way.  If a plan changed, it might’ve just been a poorly laid plan in the first place.  We all need to adapt.

6. Accept that you are part of making the rules, but not the only part.

Rules are formed on the basis of consensus.  People get together, and through quiet acceptance and mutual pact, the informal rules of life are defined.  If a person raises an issue with one of the rules, it may be altered or eliminated.  But you do not not have the power to unilaterally change the rules, unless you are in a position of complete authority (such as the owner of a privately held company or a parent).

If you are upset because someone else violated your rules, get over it.  You do not rule over them, and you are being unjust by attempting to impose what you desire onto them.

7. Ask about what’s bothering you.

If someone has obviously ripped you off, swindled you, beaten you, or in some other way wronged you, they will most likely disappear before you have a chance to confront them about it.  But for the most part, people are simply going about their own agendas, and have no idea that they may have hurt or disturbed you.

If you ask about why they did a particular thing, you may come to understand something you didn’t know before.  Do not blame them – their intentions were most likely harmless.  Besides, it’s rude to blame people, when they’re doing something that they may very well consider to be completely inane.

If someone is doing something that upsets you, but does not directly affect you (such as walking down the street and being fat), don’t mention it to them.  And let it go.

8. I’d like to read some of your ideas and coping strategies.  So feel free to post how you handle Aspie Rage in the comments section.

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