In a world that values social performance, people who communicate honestly and directly are commonly seen as rude. I’m speaking from experience as an Autistic person. One way to include Autists is to normalize honest, direct communication. Society has normalized dishonesty instead; people therefore perceive honesty as naiveté, directness, rudeness or aggression.
My communication style mirrors my communication needs. My mind likes to solve problems, so I speak as a problem-solver. This causes problems for me in a society that is offended by people who question, point out inaccuracies, and tell the truth. Honest, open, direct communication creates an atmosphere for problem solving. Instead, our society encourages people to pretend. Because asking questions is often perceived as naïve or annoying.
People are irritated by infodumping as well—when an Autist talks at length about a subject of their interests. Infodumping is a win-win activity. When I hear others speak at length about their interests or knowledge, I learn something. When I infodump, I deepen my understanding of my own mind.
Autists, we come from our own culture, a culture that values honesty and directness. We therefore struggle in neurotypical spaces that value indirect communication: hints, small talk, dishonesty, gaslighting. Indirect communication seems to communicate emotions rather than meaning, and tends to rely on body language, tonal inflections, and subtext.
Subtext is confusing. As is small talk. When people speak to me this way, I often can’t understand what they’re saying. I certainly don’t know why they’re saying what they’re saying.
This is in part why many Autists prefer written communication. More of a writer than a speaker, I see myself as a semi-verbal Autist. Writing gives me time to process, to refine, and finesse my thoughts. This is especially helpful for spaces where I don’t know the social rules. I don’t know what is “socially acceptable” to talk about, so I don’t know what I’m “not allowed” to talk about. Rarely do I know why people are so annoyed or shocked when I speak.
Though I know that people commonly assume Autists are putting on a social performance when we speak, that we’re trying to sound annoying, cute, or smart. And if an Autist is nonwhite, people commonly assume they’re trying to sound white. I often think people are trying to confuse me.