When I say I don’t learn anything by ‘accident’, it means that I often miss things that everyone else just ‘picks up’. There are so many skills that we all have, but none of us were taught. For most people, the inner workings of their own mind are a mystery.
Do you remember your primary school teacher saying “Now everyone find a partner”? Most people would not think this instruction needs further explanation, but ‘finding a partner’ is a good example of a skill that I was never taught, and therefore never learned (until much later).
Here is a typical thought process that was triggered whenever I was asked to ‘find a partner’:
Find a partner? Why? What are we doing? I guess she’ll tell us after we’re already in pairs. But who should I pick? There are so many others in the class to choose from. How do I know who I want to be my partner until I know what we’ll be doing together? That’s ok. I guess I should just pick someone. It seems like most people have already found someone, so that narrows down my options. I’ll just ask whoever is left since I don’t have enough information to work out who would be best anyway. I’m looking around but no one is making eye contact with me. How do I get their attention? Maybe they’re avoiding me because they don’t want to go with me. It’s so hard to tell who is still without a partner. Everyone is just chatting amongst themselves, often in groups larger than two. It would be much easier if they could stand in pairs so I could see who was left.
The teacher asks again… “Does everyone have a partner?” It turns out everyone does… except me.
From a teacher’s perspective, all they see is that I’m left alone. They would have no idea why. Everyone else found a partner. What’s wrong with me? She gave the instruction and it seemed like I didn’t respond. Did I hear her? Did I understand what she wanted? Am I being disobedient? Did the other kids reject me?
With the benefit of many years of social analysis, I now understand this situation extremely well. Nowadays, I’m never the last. My deep conscious knowledge means that I have the ability to subtly position myself in advance and always come out on top. I could probably write a book on how to maximise your success. My problem was purely to do with timing. The MOST important thing is to act immediately. If you don’t find a partner in the first 2 seconds you probably won’t find one. All I needed to do was turn to the person on my left and ask “Do you want to be my partner?” Simple, right? But no one knew to teach me.
For purely cultural reasons, so many things are ‘time critical’. Very often the ‘right’ answer too late is not good enough (just like my other example in the video). Think of conversational speech. If you ask me a question, I have to respond within a few seconds. In some cultures (I visited a remote aboriginal community in the NT) it is common to wait 30 seconds for an answer.
So at the end of the day, I was not unpopular, or a poor communicator, I was just a bit slow. In other words, as usual, I thought before acting. In many situations this trait is invaluable, but just as often it leads to social problems. I still struggle with situations which do not give me enough time to do ‘my thing’ (i.e. do not give me time to think). I especially struggle with people interrupting me (when I speak too slowly). It’s funny because it’s not that I think slowly, it’s just that I think more, and ironically, my intelligence and natural ability to think deeply means I can come across as slow… lol… anyone else think it’s time for an autism rethink? #AWEtismRethink