Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Asperger’s Communication – 7 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People
Life Academy – This is part of a series of articles on coping with life with Asperger’s Syndrome written by a young woman with Asperger’s syndrome.
For someone with Asperger’s syndrome, one of the most frustrating things in life can be how frustrating other people are!
People come in all different shapes, sizes, attitudes and personalities. Try as we might to make sense of the people around us, there are some people that you simply can’t make sense of.
There are going to be people who are rude, illogical and unreasonable as long as the sun keeps shining. Get used to it. As someone with Asperger’s, it’s just part of life.
This is not easy for anyone, but it is especially hard for logic bound folks with Asperger’s syndrome, who think that if they only try hard enough they can make everyone else see things from their point of view.
People with Asperger’s are often so bound to the principles of right and wrong. And dealing with “Yes, he’s dead wrong but the socially right thing to do is to ignore him,” can be a very foreign principle.
After finally having enough life experience to learn a few things about how to deal with difficult people, Aspie style, I have put together this list to help others who may have trouble in this area.
Obviously, none of us are perfect! But there are a few things a person with Asperger’s syndrome may not realize that may be hindering their relations with certain other people.
1. In the social world, you don’t get points for being right.
Even if they’re clearly, obviously, painfully wrong, it’s not always in your best interest to point this out to them. You get points for how gracefully you handle a situation. Graceful usually means…
“Acknowledging to yourself that the person is an idiot but having the self-restraint to smile, say ‘I’m sorry you feel that way,’ and leave.”
It feels wrong, yes. You spent your whole life learning about right and wrong and now you have to ignore it? Sadly, though, that is how the world works sometimes. Exceptions of course are when someone is in danger of getting hurt — this mostly applies to more trivial situations.
2. You have to pick your battles.
Sometimes the quickest way to end an argument about something stupid is to agree with the other person, no matter how much you may think what they are saying is wrong. It’s not worth your time or energy.
There’s nothing more irritating than getting into an argument with someone about something where they clearly are saying stupid things, and won’t respond to your logic about why they are stupid. But in the end, it’s a giant time and energy sink, and the quickest way to get them to shut up (because some of them, even if you stop talking, will keep hounding you about their point indefinitely), is just to agree with them.
To shut them up more quicker than anything else try saying…
“You’re right, I can see where you are coming from”
Yes, you may feel at first like your principles are being compromised — honesty and being yourself at all cost — but trust me, after a while, this strategy is really worth it. You have to pick your battles.
3. Some people just need their ego stroked.
It’s not pretty, but if some component of your life depends on getting along with certain people — such as in a work situation — you must find ways to agree with them or even compliment them.
The nice thing about this is you can feel superior afterwards because you realize how low their self-esteem must be in order for them to need you to constantly do this.
4. Know your personal boundaries.
You need to know what your own personal boundaries are in terms of how far you will go in putting up with a difficult person, whether it is in a job, living situation or other circumstance.
There’s difficult, and then there’s just ridiculous — or even unsafe. You need to examine what you are getting from keeping the difficult person on your good side — i.e. if it’s a boss or co-worker, or someone you hang out with because your other friends do — and decide if it’s worth it.
If it is, remind yourself every time you’re gritting your teeth dealing with the person just why you’re doing it. If it’s not, find a way to get away from the person if possible. (Changing jobs, departments, work stations, groups of friends or so on.)
5. Don’t try to reason with someone who is clearly not capable of reason.
Now, for me, this is the hardest one. A lot of people with Asperger’s syndrome will assume that if they are capable of something, like logical thinking, everyone will be. If I just try hard enough to explain myself, they will understand what I am getting at. Even though you’re being completely honest and earnest, the other person may get very defensive, not understand your logic, and become very angry.
Accept the fact in life that some people simply will never get it.
6. Reframe the situation.
You may find yourself upset over a remark someone has made to you; an unfair rule that has been imposed in the workplace; or an otherwise aggravating situation. People with Asperger’s syndrome, especially, may become lost in the emotions and keep circling around.
Instead say to yourself “What’s done is done, and I’ll find a way around this new restriction. Now instead of losing more energy being angry over this, I am going to accept it and focus my energy on something else,” then you don’t let the other person win. You keep your blood pressure down and your coping skills increase. It may take a few tries to really make a difference, and the anger won’t completely go away, but it really can help.
7. Ask for clarification
We have Asperger’s syndrome. That means a lot of the time, we will misunderstand another person’s intent, or completely miss their point.
Before you become convinced that the other person is the devil incarnate, take a moment to ask them what they really mean. Clarify their intent.
“Did you mean to say that? Or did you really mean this?”
If they ignore you or answer rudely, however, then you are probably dealing with a bona fide Difficult Person.
Please remember that if someone is being verbally, physically or sexually abusive to you, this is not okay. If you are not sure, ask someone you trust.
If you follow these tips, or share these tips with the Asperger’s loved one in your life, you may find yourself increasingly more patient and less irritated with those difficult people in your life. After all, they’re like mosquitos — what they say or do may sting for a few seconds, but you don’t have to keep scratching the itch.
And for additional tips and practical advice, especially for helping adults with communication issues, see Thriving in Adulthood with Asperger’s Syndrome.