Now, I always assumed that I had reasonable communication skills, I’m confident in speaking, on a given or known subject and I’m a passionate about some things and can happily speak about them to people: however, my ability to read people means that I’m probably not as good at these skills as I assumed.
I suspect that what I’m doing is simply ‘speaking at people’. It’s something that often those of us on the spectrum do, we fail to notice when people stop listening.For this reason, I was, in the past confident to stand on stage and perform a comedy routine, or to present cases in court; this is oration, and not conversation. I’m good at talking, I’m not quite so good at conversation.
The distinction, between talking and conversation is that the former is a one sided process, whilst the latter, is very much interactive.
We often fail to notice subtlety. It’s not to say that we can’t learn some things which will help us to detect cues; personally, I’m a big fan of ‘brain training games’ (for reference, I use Peak, everyday), one of which involves a couple of timed games which ask you to identify a person smiling, in a large group of photographs. Now, to the neurotypical person, this is quite possibly an easier task than for a person who isn’t (I don’t know, I’m not, never was, or ever will be NT, so this is supposition). However, it’s something which can be challenging for me, as not all smiles are a broad grin showing exposed teeth or such, as such, I find that this is good practice at recognition of facial expressions and as such, I think that it’s certainly worth trying for those of us who are on the spectrum. After all, we cannot become neurotypical, but we’re capable of learning and adapting, therefore making the most of our wonderful and diverse abilities.
A conversation I had yesterday with someone I sit next to in a classroom (I having to retake a science in order to teach at primary school level, so this involves the panic of having to sit in a classroom full of people I don’t know and only see for a few hours a week – which is terrifying) involved her asking why I consider that I have poor social skills. I explained the above, although I suspect not quite as clearly. I also stated that for the first two weeks of the class, I only spoke to people when I needed to and otherwise, I remained silent – some people would assume, falsely that I keep quiet by choice, the reality is quite the opposite, it simply takes me longer to engage and some people I will simply not engage at all, or only under sufferance.