Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Asperger’s Syndrome – Tips for Active Listening
There are a lot of skills to keep in mind in order to communicate effectively when you have Asperger’s Syndrome.
It’s hard enough coming up with a response when it’s your turn to talk, but what about the listening portion of a conversation?
People with Asperger’s Syndrome are listening, but don’t always show it. Since the person with Asperger’s may not always give off cues that they are listening the other person will be unsure if they are being listened to.
Asperger’s Syndrome – “Active Listening”
There is a skill called active listening that people with Asperger’s Syndrome should study.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where you totally didn’t know if they cared about what you were saying? Maybe they just sat there with a blank expression and didn’t offer any feedback.
Did that make you feel anxious and uncertain about yourself and your message? Probably. Did it make it hard to feel connected to that person? Most likely. Were you inclined to get together with them again? Probably not.
So, it is good to learn how to be an active listener yourself so that you don’t turn off people who could be potential friends or allies.
You may not realize, as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning autism, that you are not showing interest.
You may be thinking what the other person is saying is fascinating and you can’t wait to hear more, but unless you give the other person some cues to that effect they will not know how you feel.
Asperger’s Syndrome – Make Sure You’re Paying Attention
When someone is talking make sure to look at them (or near them) as much as you are able to. This shows you are paying attention.
If you can’t understand what you are listening to while looking at them, you may want to say that so they know and don’t think you are ignoring them. Also you can alternate between looking at them and somewhere else.
Try not to let your thoughts or the environment distract you.
Don’t think about what you are going to say next. It can be hard to focus sometimes, as many people with Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning autism have racing thoughts that are very distracting to them. But do your best.
Show Your Interest
Asperger’s Syndrome – Rephrase and Ask Questions
To show your interest, you can occasionally rephrase what they have been saying back to them. This lets them know you did understand their message, and are listening and interested.
Also, ask questions.
“What did you feel about that experience?”
“Why did you choose to do that?”
“How will you go about this in the future?”
“When are you going to do it again?”
Questions beginning with Why, What, How and When are usually good additions to the conversation. Asking someone how they felt about an experience (if they haven’t already said) can help show interest as well.
These questions may seem redundant or obvious to you, but the other person will appreciate that you asked them.
Asperger’s Syndrome – Offer Nonverbal Cues
One nonverbal way of showing interest would be to periodically nod your head while the other person makes points, this tells them you are following along with what they are saying and are understanding it.
Slightly leaning your body closer to them is another way to show a person you are interested.
Don’t get right next to them. Just move a little forward if you’re standing up and there’s enough room.
If sitting just lean a *little* closer, it shows you are engaged in what they are saying.
Try to smile when you can. Smiling makes the other person feel more welcomed and relaxed. Don’t smile if the person is talking about something sad, though.
While it is not necessarily nonverbal another good thing to do is periodically say “uh huh” or “hmm” during brief pauses in the other person’s speaking. Again it is telling them you are there “with them” and not concentrating on something else.
You may be listening very well, but if you don’t show the other person you’re listening, they won’t know.
Asperger’s Syndrome – Give a Response
After they’ve been talking long enough, you will want to give a response, because conversation is a two way street. Make sure your response reflects active listening.
One way to start off giving a response is to summarize what the person has said. You can use statements like:
“What I’m hearing is…”
“Sounds like you are saying…”
And if you have a question about something they said you can ask it by saying, “What did you mean when you say …?”
Asperger’s Syndrome – Other Tips
If anything makes you feel emotional or upset, be sure to clarify that you heard the person correctly. Try not to jump to conclusions about something until you understand it.
You can ask:
“I may not be understanding you right, and I’m a bit taken aback. What I thought you just said is …; is that what you meant?”
Using statements like this makes you seem more polite and considerate, and more enjoyable to have a conversation with.
You might have an experience that is similar to what they are saying. If so, try to acknowledge their experience in a sentence or two before talking about your own experience. Otherwise you may come across as not having heard them.
3. Don’t interrupt
Don’t interrupt to argue anything. Let them finish their point, and then say, “I feel that…”
Saying “I feel that…” tells the person it is your opinion, and makes it seem less confrontational.
4. Meter Yourself
Pay attention to the tone and speed of your voice. Try to sound calm and relaxed when you talk. This requires being somewhat self-aware.
We all get anxious sometimes, and sometimes this is conveyed in our conversations. Our anxiety can make the other person anxious too.
If you notice you are anxious, try to take a deep breath, think of something positive and relax as much as possible.
Don’t talk too fast or too loud.
These are all things that will help your overall conversation to go more smoothly.
If you pay attention to these tips, and pay attention to the other person, you will greatly increase your chances of the other person responding well to you and wanting to continue to interact with you. Active listening is a valuable skill for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome to learn.
And for many more great tips read the Craig Kendall books, Thriving In Adulthood with Asperger’s Syndrome and Asperger’s Syndrome Guide for Teens and Young Adults.