“Honesty is Different than Diplomacy”

One characteristic that most individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorders show is honesty. They make honest responses to questions, even when they are not being asked. This is rule number four in the book “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships” by Dr. Temple Grandin and Shaun Barron. People often say “honesty is the best policy”. There are times when telling the truth can hurt someones feelings or cause your child to laughed at. Rule number one in the book is “Rules are Not Absolute, They Are Situation and People Based”. Telling the truth is important, but the truth can sometimes hurt other peoples feelings. The key to telling the truth is doing it appropriately, and to do that you need to do it respectfully. From the website dictionary.com, a definition of the word “diplomacy” is “tact and skill in dealing with people”.

The word “tact” simply means “acute sensitivity to what is proper and appropriate in dealing with others, including the ability to speak or act without offending”. In the book, Shaun mentioned how being honest in a social situation is very difficult. He mentioned how being honest can sometimes hurt other peoples feelings. He mentioned how he hurt one of his friends feelings when he received a gift he didn’t like. The gift turned out to be a board game that he already owned at the time. When he first saw the gift, he simply said “I already have this” and flung the gift aside. His parents gave him a lecture about why this behavior was inappropriate. In his mind, he was just trying to be honest because he already owned the game his friend gave him, and that he was disappointed that he didn’t get a gift he wanted. Because of his Autistic way of thinking, it prevented him from understanding that his behavior was inappropriate. It prevented him from understanding that his “sheer unchecked honesty” hurt his friends feelings.

I can relate to Temple when she talked about how she can’t lie on the spur of the moment, she has to plan it carefully beforehand. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high functioning form of Autism. An Autistic child’s ability to lie depends on their functioning level. A child with the low functioning disorder can tend to get very overwhelmed and nervous. If you remember my grouchy math teacher from my Freshman year in high school, she would give us very large amounts of homework every single night. We were working on multi step fractions, which to this day I cannot understand and bore the hell out of me. I remember one day she gave us a very large worksheet for homework, it had about fifty multi step problems and she wanted done by the next school day. I had a very bad bullying incident that day, and I was in no mood to work on a fifty problem worksheet with multi step fractions. When I got home from school that day, I wanted to do nothing but sleep because I was so overwhelmed because of the bullying incident. My mother discovered how overwhelmed I was about the situation, but she didn’t know about the very large math homework sheet. I decided that I would tell the teacher that I didn’t have enough time to do the assignment. The next day, the teacher asked us for our homework assignment, and I put it on her desk. She looked at the paper and noticed that it wasn’t done, and I simply said that I didn’t have time to do the assignment. Because of my tone of voice, she didn’t believe me excuse. In her mind she was probably thinking that I wanted to be lazy and not do the assignment. It was true that I didn’t want to do the assignment, but it was not true that I was lazy. I had a very rough day and I was not in the mood to do a fifty problem worksheet. Math is something that has always frustrated me, and probably always will.

One of the problems I have with being honest is not knowing what to say at the right time. Let’s go back to my old therapist Mike, who would always try to push me to the limit. When he would ask me a question, I wouldn’t answer it right away because I was trying to process what to say. If I didn’t answer the question right away, he would overwhelm me even more by asking another question. After I finally had enough with the questions, I would ignore him by not looking at him and paying attention to him. When I would ignore him, he would irritatingly ask me “what are you thinking about”? I would respond with an “I don’t know” because I simply didn’t want him to know anything about me. It took him and my parents an entire year to finally realize that his therapy was not the right thing for me. It also took them that long to realize that I didn’t want him to get to know me because of how much he overwhelmed me. I seemed to think that he was trying to bully me instead of help me. I think that his therapy would work better for kids with ADHD and behavior problems. His therapy style was that he wanted to shove social skills down my throat. To me, the more you push somebody, the more they will resist.

When I was working with Mike, I didn’t want to be honest because I was afraid he would laugh at me or he would get angry at me. Most kids with Asperger’s are too honest when they are around people they might consider “friends” when they really aren’t. They become too trusting and give them information they shouldn’t give them, which can result in teasing, bullying and social isolation. They don’t understand boundary issues and diplomacy. This is also an important skill to learn in the work world. Lets pretend you are working for a local carpentry shop, and you’re building a house that is almost complete. Your boss has to leave for the day and he leaves you in charge of things for the day. Before he leaves he explains the tasks that he wants completed before the end of the day. Your coworker shows you the wood pieces he cut for the house and you discover that his measurements are slightly off. There are three possible things you could do, you could tell him off by calling him stupid and rudely tell him to go back and do it again, or you could politely tell him which measurements are incorrect and help him get it done correctly. If you go with the first option, you could end up being fired, which could ruin your chances of getting a job elsewhere.

If you remember my blog titled “Social Isolation Hurts” I talked about the kid at Lenape that told me off when we were working on the windmill, he was purposely trying to make me feel bad. He knows that his behavior is very inappropriate and uncalled for. I simply refused to work with him, nobody on this planet deserves to be talked to like that. I have never been around somebody that has talked to me so rudely before. I don’t think that his kid is ever going to change, he will always talk to people he doesn’t like that he doesn’t like rudely and inappropriately. It’s a shame that there are people in this world who act like that, but I guess that is just the way it is.

Before I go, I have one more thought. I try to be as honest and polite as I can when I am around people, but when they are disrespectful towards me they will be disrespected back. They will get the truth that they don’t want to hear and I won’t say it in a nice way. I don’t think you deserve respect when you don’t give it to other people. People who can’t handle the truth will be in for a wake up call sometime in their life. The fact is that if you want respect from me, you have to earn it. It’s as simple as that. I am not going to change anything about myself, and if you can’t handle me for who I am then stay away from me. I think the so called “normal” people are the ones with problems, especially the ones who sit there and make fun of people with differences. If you don’t want to be around me, that is your problem, not mine.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this, and I will be back to write soon!