The fifth chapter of Aspergers on the Job is titled “Blunders, Boundaries, and Emotional Attachment”. 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: This chapter discusses how people on the spectrum have blunders which more often times than not are caused by bluntness. Simone says they often just don’t what to say, and end up saying the wrong thing. She gave suggestions to help those on the spectrum with this is issue as well as suggestions for employers and co-workers to help as well. I didn’t like all of her suggestions, but some of them would be really helpful.
The suggestions I liked of Simone to those on the spectrum were the following;
- Try and find a mentor, someone whom you can bounce ideas off. They can help you learn the limits of social topics appropriate for your workplace.
- Accessing emotions can be learned, try talking about how you feel with someone you trust.
- Try writing down your thoughts and feeling to understand yourself: positive and negative thoughts as well as motivations.
The suggestions I liked of Simone to supervisors and co-wokers were:
- Those on the spectrum may have an excellent point if you can overlook the delivery
- If they have been a bit un-empathetic, take them aside and give them a working example that that they can relate to rather than telling them how they “should” feel.
Stephanie: I also like a lot of the suggestions you listed above. But with each set of suggestions comes skills that need to be taught. For example, Simone said: Try and find a mentor, someone whom you can bounce ideas off. They can help you learn the limits of social topics appropriate for your workplace. That can be a tough skill because it involves the individual with autism disclosing their disability to their co-workers and also advocating for their needs. That is very challenging for some, who choose to be more private about their diagnosis. Simone’s other idea that you mentioned above-Accessing emotions can be learned, try talking about how you feel with someone you trust- requires strong communication skills that can be difficult. I do like these ideas, but also see that there are many steps that need to be taken to achieve them.
The other thing that came to mind when reading this chapter and notes about empathy relates to an individual I work with. Through my time with this person I have learned that they are starting to show empathy, but don’t know how to express it in an appropriate way. Instead, this individual often touches the person they are feeling empathy for, whether its a squeeze of the hand or a hand on their shoulder. While this may be appropriate for some situations, it doesn’t apply to all. The individual on the receiving end of this empathy may not like the physical attention displayed or maybe they don’t know each other that well. That is why its so important to talk about context and what situations would warrant certain responses. Simone calls this challenge with identifying and describing emotions “alexythimia”.
Doug: Communicating about these situations is so essential. It comes down to context, context, context so often.
I thought the question at the end of the chapter was important as well. Simone asked to think about why you feel compassion towards a film or other fictional character, but not a real person.
Stephanie: In terms of the question at the end of the book- it got me to thinking more about empathy and a conversation we had with an adult with autism the other day. This person told me that the problem isn’t necessary that adults with autism don’t feel empathy. Instead, they sometimes feel too much empathy but don’t show it in the right way. So in regards to the film prompt question, maybe individuals with autism feel more compassion towards fictional characters but don’t have to worry about responding to the character’s situation. Instead, the empathy is more one sided and there isn’t any interaction with another person which makes it easier for some to show it or feel it. Or maybe Simone is right on target with her broad statement of feeling compassion towards a fictional character but not a real person. Maybe there is more to it.