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I hate making small talk with new people because it makes me feel like they’re judging me so I trail off and no one carries on the conversation. then since no one’s talking the silence just kills me and it makes me more self conscious 

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Eurgh! Small talk. I guess people do judge by how you respond to small talk, which is a bad way to judge. "It's cold today isn't it?" Well yes, obviously. I'm standing near enough to you that you can ask me such a pointless question so one can assume that I'm experiencing the same environmental conditions without having to ask about them. I'm not very good at small talk. This isn't a failing on your part because small talk is absolutely pointless. A way of saying something when you have nothing to say. I guess people people do judge, but you can judge them back. If that's all they have to say then why not say nothing? I think there's a lot of people here who struggle with small talk. I'm an introvert and it's always been difficult to know what to say to pointless questions without seeming rude. But, many introverts will talk your ear off if you mention something interesting, and if it's not in a large group.

Self-consciousness is a curse. The whole "What if they think ... " can drive you insane. And you always assume the worst when you're too self-conscious. "I didn't respond adequately to his question about the weather and now he hates me!" I'm not mocking you by using such a petty example - it's me too. Another awkward human interaction. There's the idea (which I'm probably going to explain badly and make it sound shit) that people aren't really thinking about you. At least not as much as you think. The way you imagine they might be thinking about you bears no relation to the reality. They're probably thinking something like "That woman is wearing a green dress and isn't interested in the weather". In your head it can be more like "I'm a social failure and everyone hates me." They aren't thinking about you as much as you might be thinking about yourself. I've gotten better at realising this but I'm far from perfect. Still a problem. "They think ... " Do they though?

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Here's my off-the-cuff hypothesis about small talk (as one who abhors it) - it isn't pointless for those who initiate it. Neurotypical people function socially through an intricate - and to Autists like me, invisible and baffling - interplay of visual and auditory cues that signal mood, meaning, intent, sexual availability, etc. When they initially approach a person, they have no data to work from, and have had no time to make the observations necessary to mount an appropriate social response tailored to the other individual's (largely limbic) states. Therefore, it is imperative that they stimulate the other person to give off signals, and they must do so in a non-threatening way that does not require a serious commitment of mental resources on the part of the person they approach. Engaging in small talk elicits mood cues, facial expressions, tone, body language shifts, and direct vocal information that informs a more in-depth tailored response that ensures smooth social interaction as the social occasion continues.

This breaks down, of course, when the person approached is someone like me who recoils negatively at the small talk itself and feels like a cat with its ears flattened back against its head. The small talk becomes the generator of the signal rather than the detector. That isn't necessarily a failing of the Neurotypical system - it seems to work fine for the average Neurotypical. But it isn't universally applicable.

It's a pity that such a construct is necessary at all for humans to interact successfully with one another, but the species seems unable to get beyond a sense of the overimportance of feelings, and the escalating umbrage then feelings are hurt.

Jean-Paul Sartre is the originator of the phrase "Hell is other people," and he elaborated on his intent:

"Hell is other people" has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because … when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves … we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves.

Which, to my mind, is a uniquely Neurotypical perspective, and a bit silly; it suggests that we, who occupy our own heads, can only know as much about ourselves as anyone who sees us from the outside and doesn't know what we think or why we think it. In my own experience, relations with other people usually always are invariably hellish for that very reason - they misjudge me because they don't understand me. And I absolutely refuse to judge myself by their ridiculous standards.

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I hate small talk; it’s pointless and I’m too literal to get it to work. But I’ve caught one small break because I live in a part of the world that has varied and not infrequently violent weather. Our climate tried to kill us again! “Did your car not start/do you have air conditioning/how close to you was that tornado/so that flooding was right near your mom’s place, right?” By the time we get natural phenomena out of the way, most people (including me) have got a drink in them, and talking gets a wee bit easier. Once I was in Iceland talking to a very drunk Irish guy (please see other thread about stereotypes and racism) who worked in construction. He was leapfrogging around the world working at various job sites, and he’d been here, and he said “Oh, it gets proper cold there,” and the next thing you knew he was inviting us over to drink whiskey and watch Connor McGregor box on tv.

I’ve heard that this does not work in Los Angeles, as the weather is same day in and day out. I’d go nuts. I need seasons.

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17 hours ago, Cerberus said:

Which, to my mind, is a uniquely Neurotypical perspective, and a bit silly; it suggests that we, who occupy our own heads, can only know as much about ourselves as anyone who sees us from the outside and doesn't know what we think or why we think it. In my own experience, relations with other people usually always are invariably hellish for that very reason - they misjudge me because they don't understand me. And I absolutely refuse to judge myself by their ridiculous standards.

But doesn't everyone do that to some extent? We make friends with people who like us rather than those who hate us. We are social beings, to varying extents, and the way people see us does matter. That's why we seek out people who are similar to us in outlook. You wouldn't go to a Donald Trump rally (and he's still doing rallies. Why?) and expect people to appreciate your alternative opinion that he's a tangerine fuckwit. Hmm. Lost my train of thought while thinking of a suitable insult for Trump. So many possibilities. What was I talking about? If everyone greeted you with disgust and hatred it would bother you wouldn't it? Relying purely on your own idea of yourself can lead to either self-loathing or narcissism. It's hard to answer the question of what sort of person you are without reference to other people. I avoided people for a long time and ended up hating myself.

Your hypothesis about small talk is interesting. Reminds me of the idea that gossip is social grooming. Other apes groom each other to form bonds, and gossip may perform the same function for humans. What's the monkey equivalent of small talk?

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4 minutes ago, Fluent In Silence said:

What's the monkey equivalent of small talk?

That’s easy. They pick the lice out of each other’s fur and eat them.

 I wonder, though, if self-loathing isn’t something we learn from other people’s negative reactions to us. If no one ever indicated their disapproval, would we ever have any reason to question our own worth or acceptability? I resent the notion that my self-esteem should be dependent on someone else’s emotionally burdened opinion. You want to tell me what you think of me? Pick off all your own lice, then we’ll talk.

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57 minutes ago, Cerberus said:

I wonder, though, if self-loathing isn’t something we learn from other people’s negative reactions to us. If no one ever indicated their disapproval, would we ever have any reason to question our own worth or acceptability? I resent the notion that my self-esteem should be dependent on someone else’s emotionally burdened opinion. You want to tell me what you think of me? Pick off all your own lice, then we’ll talk.

Yep. I've moaned enough about my childhood recently to go into that again. But your parents teach you that you're valued and loved, and you go into the world with the confidence which comes from that. Or, they teach you nothing of the sort and you develop depression, social anxiety, and an alcohol problem. Or is that just me? Anyway, I think that a lot of ways in which we define ourselves are in relation to other people. You're intelligent? In comparison to what? You're kind? To who? Without any feedback from other people it's difficult to know anything about yourself. And you do seem both intelligent and kind Cerberus. Like I said I avoided any sort of human interaction for a long time, and it did leave me without much of an idea of who I was. When in doubt, turn to self-loathing. Maybe there is a way to know yourself without any outside influence, but I couldn't find it, and I did really try. Probably nobody will see you as you really are, although the self isn't fixed and immutable, and how we see ourselves is always being revised. And that's a good thing when you suffer from depression. Erm ... getting a bit carried away. Enough small talk! How's the weather where you are?

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32 minutes ago, Fluent In Silence said:

Probably nobody will see you as you really are, although the self isn't fixed and immutable, and how we see ourselves is always being revised.

It's worse when you don't fit the standard mold (like being Autistic) and even if they do see you as you actually are they misinterpret it as something else in relation to their own standard. As a result, I am often considered an asshole.

34 minutes ago, Fluent In Silence said:

And you do seem both intelligent and kind Cerberus.

I try, really hard.

Or, as Aggressive Piglet would say, 

F*** YOU!!!

 

Weather in Hell, Kentucky: The clouds that prevented any possible view of the unusually southward spread of the Aurora Borealis last night have broken to provide a day partly sunny, with a chance of humans - i.e., abysmal. On the other hand, it could just be the black cloud that hangs over my head and never goes away. It complicates accurate meteorology.

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1 hour ago, Cerberus said:

It's worse when you don't fit the standard mold (like being Autistic) and even if they do see you as you actually are they misinterpret it as something else in relation to their own standard. As a result, I am often considered an asshole.

I often try to explain myself. I'm not an arsehole really. I say sorry a hell of a lot. Even for an English person. Being misunderstood is a hazard of not being normal. I'm not normal, just rational. Well maybe not that rational but in comparison to the supposed "normal" people? Fuck me! Ancient aliens, Donald Trump and scientology. How are we defining normal? To be rational is to be abnormal. Sanity is statistical. I said that you're intelligent and kind. You are, and does that have no impact on you? I'm not expecting any great reaction from saying that. "Oh thank you for thinking that". No, no, no. That would be weird and embarassing for us all. Fuck those people who don't understand you, you seem like a decent bloke.

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3 minutes ago, Fluent In Silence said:

I'm not expecting any great reaction from saying that. "Oh thank you for thinking that". No, no, no. That would be weird and embarassing for us all.

Isn't it odd that we have whole rude glossaries of words and gestures for quickly responding to slights and insults, but are so ill-equipped to take a compliment?

Of recent times, I've taken to explaining myself before I've even said anything. It saves trouble later. Announcing "I'm Autistic" is a calculated risk, and sometimes stigma can get used against you, but I've found that it prevents more serious misunderstandings even if it activates people's presumptions. I figure they're going to end up thinking "He's not like us" either way, but if I explain up front, they'll at least have an idea why.

18 minutes ago, Fluent In Silence said:

Being misunderstood is a hazard of not being normal. I'm not normal, just rational.

You say "I'm not normal" as though it were a bad thing. You're not 'normal' like them? Good for you! It's a sad statement about our species that irrational appears to be the commonly accepted standard for normal. I don't want to be their kind of normal.

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5 hours ago, Fluent In Silence said:

You wouldn't go to a Donald Trump rally (and he's still doing rallies. Why?) and expect people to appreciate your alternative opinion that he's a tangerine fuckwit. Hmm. Lost my train of thought while thinking of a suitable insult for Trump. So many possibilities.

Our very own @dancesintherainbrought us the term “the Orange Fuckmuppet,” and I’ve used it faithfully ever since.

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