I’m having a serious off week. I’ve had a number of communications hic-ups, both verbal and written. It’s not unusual for people with Aspergers to have some form of communication issues, and I have found a few tricks have worked wonders.
The first is to be quick with the apology. Even if I can’t see the issue, an apology at least opens the door to contrition and makes the other person feel they are immediately being heard about their grievance. I was quick with my apology this morning for a flippant email that I sent out of frustration. It was well received, and it healed the rift quickly. This was my biggest communication mistake this week, and it made me re-evaluate how I go about replying to emails. It’s a small thing but it can make a big difference.
The second was a verbal encounter where someone tried to use my authority, e.g. “I spoke to Unnavigateableworld and they said X, so we have to do it”. It caught me off guard because I had already solved their issue and they rang my manager to try to leverage some position they had no immediate right to. It means that I felt immediately defensive but it was no excuse for being short.
My final communication failure was in a work document, using the definitive article rather than giving myself some easy get out clause. This annoyed me because I had been warned of this before.
I have an incredibly supportive manager who gently pointed out issues and I have done a more specific reflective practice piece for my work folio.
This is a two-part post, with the part in italics written after a further development.
We had a team meeting today. It involved an awfully familiar stern conversation about professionalism, workplace appropriate behavior and communication. It’s an achingly familiar conversation. Pre-diagnosis, it was a familiar regular conversation from managers who, because I pass for neurotypical, would be baffled as to why I couldn’t manage to identify behaviors that would be considered unprofessional and inappropriate. I couldn’t identify and therefore change these behaviors, either by myself or with support, this conversation became the prelude to disciplinary proceedings that led to dismissal. An endless, irreversible cycle of frustration on both sides until I had it happen in London and an Educational Psychologist flag my autistic markers at the age of 27.
One thing I have become particularly good at after diagnosis, with support, is self-reflection, and the insistence to communicate to my mangers that I require specifics. To learn from my mistakes, which I agree I still make occasionally, I require specifics, right down to exactly what I did, how it comes across, and strategies to fix it, including reflective practice.
This has worked excellently in the past, especially as the manger who managed it really well for the first time in my career did so without any real support other than what they read on-line. They were very supportive and gave me the motto of “I don’t come for the work, I come for the manager” which I have since realized seems to be a lot of people’s rule for work.
After the team meeting, I grabbed my immediate manager, because I required specifics and they would know. A block, stern warning was no use, and they know that I need specifics. We had a very reassuring conversation.
So why am I blogging at midnight?
Anxiety. The deep internalisation that once again I’ve screwed up and am about to find myself back on the job market, living on a friend’s sofa, with no money to my name. The deep-self-loathing that once again, I’ve been unable to mask certain behaviors, and even after eight years of diagnosis, openness with managers, therapy, and support, things have gone wrong quickly.
If I could push a button and turn off my autism, I would sometimes. There’s a very solid school of thought, which I support, that Autism isn’t a negative trait, but its fueling my anxiety right now and I’d give anything to just be able to switch it off and sleep. I’ve even got chest pain.
For a long time after diagnosis I wanted to go back to managers who had let me go due to autistic traits and behaviors and show them how I had improved and grown. I think the best way to win in life is prove others wrong and show them what they have missed out on, which sounds a lot like the motivational speech a bunch of girls would give a friend after a bad break up but there you go.
I just wish tonight my anxiety would let me believe that.