The fourth chapter of Aspergers on the Job is titled “Bluntness,Perfectionism, and That Famous Asperger’s Arrogance”. Here are thoughts on Rudy Simone and discussion about this chapter. Stephanie is one of the fantastic APC Coaches and Doug is the founder of APC.
Doug: Rudy Simone didn’t pose questions at the end of the chapter, instead she made a couple of great suggestions. The first was practice tact in all of your interactions with people until they become easier. The second, notice what sort of results you get from your efforts. I just had a client the other day who I was trying to give this advice to, but he is an individual that doesn’t take constructive criticism well.
Stephanie: I agree this is good advice but I think its easier said then done. How do you practice tact? How do we teach our clients to practice it? I often hear from them that they are just being honest. If we ask them to say it a different way, they may not know how because in their eyes, they need to say the truth. Also, many individuals I work with say that directness works best for them. So again, here lies a difficult issue. They are asking for information to be given to them in a certain way but we are asking them to put out that information in a different mode. It’s not consistent which is hard. I have one client in particular who has trouble with this- not just in employment, but with his relationships with everyone around him. It is hard for him not to give feedback. As a result, his relationships suffer.
Doug: Oh yes, much easier said than done! I think you have to start with practice, but many of our clients struggle to understand where an interaction went wrong. That is why it is important for us to practice this skill with our clients and give really honest feedback. Then when the individual starts to make progress with us we to generalize the skill of tact with others. I think we have them practice with family members or friends with us observing. I think its really a brick by brick process. It takes a lot of hard work to get better at this skill, but progress can be made.
Stephanie: In addition to practicing 1:1 with us through our basic conversations, there are many teaching tools that we can use. Something as simple as watching clips from a movie with different social situations could be one method. We could watch as a few individuals interact, then pause and have our clients interpret their facial expressions, what was just said, what an appropriate response may be, etc. I think just increasing awareness may be helpful. One of my clients told me they are never aware of what facial expression they are displaying. That lack of awareness makes it difficult in social situations and if they are trying to practice delivering tact, appropriate facial expressions need to accompany it.
Doug: I’m a big proponent of video modeling especially for those clients whose learning style is visual. Therefore, watching movie clips can be very helpful. Plus, many of our clients are very interested in movies so the motivation could be increased to learn with this type of activity. Those that are not as interested in movies and more interested in reading I would suggest reading books by Paul Ekman. He does a wonderful job breaking down body language and facial expressions. Paul definitely will give you much more awareness about this topic once you are done reading one of his books.