Monday, 10 March 2014

Social confusion

In my daily life I often run into, what I call, social confusion. Social confusion usually happens when there's a subtext and/or non-verbal communication going on that the other person just expects me to pick up on, but I'm completely oblivious to it. Then that person responds to me not responding to something I didn't even know was there. So to me, that response comes out of nowhere and I'm socially confused, because I have no idea what just happened to cause that response.

A few days ago something so very confusing happened, that it left me confused all day long and even my sister didn't get what was going on. Because this is a situation that's even confusing for people without autism, I thought it would make a great example of what social confusion can look like.

My sister and I were walking around in a supermarket. There was a lady at the supermarket who gave out samples of a new type of pizza. Since we were planning on eating pizza that evening, meaning one of the things we were going to buy was pizza, this was perfect timing and I decided to try some of that pizza. There were two new kinds. One had tuna, scampi, salmon and spinach. The other one just had tuna and spinach.

I walked up to the lady and looked at her, ready to ask if I could sample one of the pizzas. She read the look on my face before I could say something and said I could just take one. I took a slice of pizza and happily took a few bites. I told my sister and the lady that I liked the pizza. The woman said: "Yeah, that's my fault," continued to say some more things that both my sister and I couldn't understand (she spoke very fast and soft), and then took the pizza out of my hands, threw it away and gave me a new one. I have no idea what happened here, but later my sister and I thought she probably misheard me and thought I didn't like the pizza.

With a new pizza in hand, I already got kind of confused, but decided that it doesn't matter, as I still had a pizza. I took two more bites, said I liked the pizza again, and then the lady took my pizza again, threw it away again and gave me a new one. This time she gave me another type of fish-pizza. After taking yet another two bites, I said I liked the pizza again. Then my sister and I got confused over which of the pizzas I just got and asked her. She took my pizza again, threw it out, and gave me a new one. I started to wonder if this was a prank and if there were some hidden cameras somewhere.

Absolutely thrown back by this whole 'taking two bites, taking the pizza away, throwing it out, getting a new pizza' routine, I stopped discussing the pizzas. Even my sister looked at me with a look of 'I don't know either'. I took another two bites, didn't even go on to eat more of it, and simply said I wanted to buy that pizza. I liked all the pizzas, so I didn't even bother to ask which one was which. She gave me the pizza I just sampled, my sister and I thanked her and then we walked out completely confused.

We couldn't get over this for the rest of the day. The situation was so absurd, that we kept on laughing, being confused and wondering: "What just happened?!"

Like I said, this situation would confuse a lot of people without autism too. But this IS what a conversation feels like for me a lot of times. A lot of communication is non-verbal and I'm very bad at picking up non-verbal communication, which means that I'm missing out on a lot of things in a conversation. Sometimes people expect a response from the non-verbal communication, but if I'm not picking up on that, then obviously I won't respond to it either. Because non-verbal communication goes so instinctively for most people, it's very frustrating for a lot of people if I don't pick up on it. It even comes across as me not caring about them sometimes, which is a big misconception. I do care, I just didn't even know something was going on.

In my example this woman said some things that I missed and reacted on it even before I could ask her what she said. She then continued doing things that made a lot of sense to her, but not to my sister and me. This is what it feels like when I miss out on non-verbal communication, which the other person expected me to pick up on. Because I missed out on a piece of information, to me they suddenly appear to act very weirdly, while to them it seems to make total sense. This can sometimes lead to very awkward situations, or even very angry people.

1 comment:

  1. Wtf that is weird, I also have a good example of social confusion which is not even non verbal, I often have arguments with my father because he says one thing which is often a really mean thing to say which hurts my feelings, but he did not want to give me the message he said in words, he has a hidden message that I am somehow supposed to pick up, what am I a freaking mind reader?
    so that makes me confused and often a little angry with him and than he does not understand why I got angry or confused, and I think he will never learn that, because no matter how often I explain to him he never changes his way of communicating.
    And even worse because he continually uses hidden messages that are completely different from what he says in words, he will change everything I say around because he still expects me to also use hidden messages, which offcourse I do not because I do not understand the logic behind saying one thing but meaning something completely different which you do not say but the other person just has to know, that is just stupid in my opinion.
    But yeah that way he doesn't understand me either because he finds hidden messages where there are none so he makes up things about me that he says I meant which I did not, with me its literally what you see is what you get, so what I say is what I mean to say, what I say is my message, so being with my father is often very tiring and annoying for me so I don't make a habit of seeing him too often.
    Kind regards Rob v/d Wal.