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.