Interpersonal Communication Advice from Ableist Neurotypicals

Iʻve been involved with a really interesting book in the past few months; Interpersonal Communication by Joseph A. DeVito, by Pearson. It has great advice for how to improve oneʻs interpersonal and socializing skills. It explains family dynamics, cultural and language issues – so many briliant things that I canʻt wait to have a full audiobook of it.

But there is something in that book that bothers me a lot.

I donʻt remember in which part of the book it was, but it gave this little nugget of wisdom:

Maintain eye contact, have pleasant facial expressions, an open posture, and relatively close proximity.

That makes me scream. No. No, no. I do NOT want that.

Fake the eye contact, so itʻs more pleasant for the sighted people around you. Facial expressions? Oh yes, again for the other, sighted personʻs benefit. An open posture… well – what when you canʻt see the other personʻs posture? Or their facial expressions? Or their eyes? Itʻs a wee bit one-way road of making the communication more effective.

And the “relatively close proximity” depends on culture. I can handle that of the first two cultures I lived in. I donʻt want to have the relatively close proximity that also comes with gender-stereotypical touching. Do not touch me. Do not touch my stick either.

Iʻm tired of all the neurotypical trying to fit in. I am me. Listen to that, TheWorld! I am me. I am TIRED of the pretend eye contact game.

If you want all of the eye contact, facial expressions, open posture & relatively close proximity game, why donʻt you make a voice phone call to me? As long as itʻs a regular phone call and does not magically show in FaceTime call log afterwards (like the call from “the Doctorʻs office” earlier this year), itʻll be just fine. (And that “just fine” in a tone of voice you cannot decipher because English is not my first or second language, AND I will not be looking you in the direction of your eyes when I say it).

Maintain eye contact. Oh yea. Great. A confession: when Iʻm with my friends or in a company I like, that is never an issue.

But when Iʻm somewhere where I have not been before, or talk to someone Iʻve never talked to before etc etc – no. Iʻll keep my shades on, thank you.

A plesant facial expression. Another great one. I know when I feel relaxed or happy. Isnʻt that good enough? How do I know what my facial expressions look like? Hello. Iʻve quit using facial makeup – because itʻs really difficult to put on, and then it smudges, especially around the eyes. Sunglasses actually help with my facial expressions I believe. Because I donʻt have to so actively do the pretend eye contact game, it can work pretty well. Worst case, I will use some bumpy or sticky humor until I get my point across.

An open posture. Hm.. So while I try to figure peopleʻs facial expressions from the tone of voice they have when they speak in my third language… I am probably also supposed to get their posture from between the lines too. Oh, how Iʻd love to have a friend that could just audiodescribe everything when we are somewhere. “He just crossed his arms in front of himself; a typically defensive gesture”, “he is looking at your direction, with a face that is trying to pass as openly curious, while his tone of voice contradicts the posture and expression by these details…”

A relatively close proximity. Oh yes. Culture. Do not touch me, ever, without my explicitly given permission. Also please donʻt do the high five – fist bump – handshake dance.

If you are a medical professional that needs to do something (such as be a prick, I mean skin “prick” or if I am required to provide a blood sample), please tell me what you are going to do. “Iʻd like to take a blood sample. Is right arm OK?” instead of not asking and not telling.

I learned at an early age how to pass for a neurotypical person.

My parents were not neurotypicals. I do not understand their love, and the family had a terrible communication style in it, but they were my family. It had love: Neuro-Atypical Love. Do not question it.

The body I have is of female sex. This means I am supposed to be able to pick much more of untold cues and unwritten rules than if I just were a male. I do not feel I am of either gender. I am genderfluid (more about that later). But fake enough eye contact because it is expected. Handshake because itʻs expected. Do this and that because itʻs expected.

Needless to say, teenage years sucked.

Like so many people that have a body of female sex [a long list of stuff here I will get back to later]. Now I am an adult. Now I am proud do declare myself as a person that has Asperger. Visually impaired (partially sighted, or with some vision left or right or whatever) AND with ASD. Deal with it! You can try to do all the Eye Contact you want.

I read Braille, AND I have dyslexia. The dots change places in my fingertips! Ha. Braille and Nemeth dyslexia! Iʻm proud of it. And Iʻm working on it.

I am working with my communication skills.

But that eye contact etc has got beyond tiring.

I am trying to run to some random sign language speakers. Because if they are not talking with voice, and they are quiet, and have an interpret – I know I am supposed to look at them, and not at the interpret. But how can I know where the person is if I donʻt have my audio cues about their location?

I have had many nice chats with people that are hard of hearing or practically deaf. Sit close, find an angle that they can read your lips, use the better ear, try with different words, take turns in making sure you understand each other, and sometimes use other methods: email – and twitter is insanely great for talking with other people of similar or different abilities.

My current annoyance: people that are just too neurotypical and too full of only their own way of seeing the world.

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