NEURODIVERSE COMMUNICATION TRAINING
Why do we feel like we are speaking different languages when we try to talk to each other? What hijacks our ability to communicate effectively?
Do your conversations sound like:
Tammy: Look at me when I talk to you.
Tim: I am trying to but you're not making any sense. You said to walk the dog as soon as I felt like it. I never felt like it.
Tammy: You know that the dog needs a walk every day.
Tim: But you never said that.
Tammy: I've said that a million times. You just don't listen.
I don't know of ONE neurodiverse couple who doesn't fall into this type of communication trap..
The root issue is:
"We don't see the world the way the world is...we see the world the way WE are".
We will continue to miscommunicate until we become aware of our different COMMUNICATION STYLES.
The neurodiverse and neurotypical communication styles can be broken down as follows:
Logical vs. Emotional
Concrete vs Abstract
Absolutist vs. Relative
Avoidant vs. Insistent
Furthermore, we send and receive information through the following filters:
our expectations and stereotypes,
our wounds or defensiveness,
our past experiences, and
our mood at the moment.
It is clear that many powerful forces color the way we hear our partner and express ourselves.
A FEW STRATEGIES
Our therapists are equipped with special tools and strategies to support you as you learn to communicate across the neurodivide.
Some of the common strategies include:
Recognize Patterns without Blame
As a result of communication style differences and personal filters (as mentioned above), every couple will eventually fall into unproductive communication patterns. The first step to work on the unproductive pattern is to take an honest look at the pattern WITHOUT blaming each other. We encourage the framework to be:
the "couple versus the pattern",
as opposed to "me against you".
With this team approach, the couple will learn how to describe the pattern in a clear way so they both agree what's happening. Next, they learn to recognize when the pattern starts and how to pause together and notice it. And, then they commit to ways to change the pattern when it happens in real life.
Create Time to Process
Autism Spectrum (AS) partners often require additional time to process the issue at hand, especially if change is associated with the topic. To lessen the impact of processing times, the couples should collaborate to lessen the pressure for a quick response. An example of this could include sharing topics in advance. Also, talk times should be scheduled so that each partner has the energy to fully engage in the conversation.
Neurodiverse couples often need structure in their communications. Although this may initially seem cumbersome, many couples save HUGE amounts of time over the long term by communicating well up front.
An example of breaking communication into steps is as follows:
understanding the other's point of view,
exploring the other partner's point of view,
being clear about the feelings involved,
being clear about the goal or request,
agreeing to try an approach,
reviewing how it went, and
affirming each other's efforts throughout the process.
Neurodiverse couples do well to avoid criticism and defensive. To do so, before you jump into the content of the conversation, introduce your topic with:
a clear statement of your intention to be constructive, and
your commitment to place a higher importance on the relationship than individual issues.
Agree that you will pause the conversation if one person feels criticized. If the criticism/defensiveness pattern happens, reassure the partner and address these feelings before resuming the talk about content.
Be Clear about Desires
Let go of the fantasy that your partner should read your mind. "Theory of Mind" is regularly over-estimated in a typical relationship and even more problematic in a neurodiverse one.
We encourage you to think of a strong relationship as one where:
each person knows what they need,
each partner can express that need with kindness and clarity to the other partner,
the other partner truly considers it,
the other partner lets the person making the request KNOW that he/she considered it,
and the other partner feels free to explore and negotiate the request and then say yes or no.
Put it in Writing
By the way, clarity is often served by putting thoughts and feelings in writing. Many couples find it helpful to write out your thoughts before a conversation and, after reflecting on those thoughts, read them to your partner. Also, it can be helpful to take notes when listening.
Find Time to Talk
If you rarely talk to each other, we suggest that you turn your communication into a new set of "habits". The couple can work together to systematically build conversation into your daily routine. This may start out feeling forced but, with practice, will begin to feel organic and rewarding.
Begin this process by making small adjustments to your schedules. Block regular times on your calendar (every day). Find bits of downtime and commit to talking to each other. Don't do this too fast because that may lead you to feel overly discouraged by inevitable failures. Rather, go slow and have small successes that encourage you.
Examples of "small" ways to communication include:
Agree to 3-minute greetings when you depart in the morning (even if you are working in the same house and going to different rooms).
Pick one meal per day and have each person initiate a conversation on a topic.
Get up 10 minutes earlier than usual so you can share your plans for that day.
If you watch TV together, after it ends, take 10 minutes to share your thoughts about the show.
For 10 minutes before going to sleep, try some ‘pillow talk’ to share thoughts that are sitting with you as you end your day.
There is a well-known quote that says:
"Someone with Autism has taught me that love needs no words."
In the midst of learning all the skills discussed above, please remember that there are many ways to love someone. We hope that you always remain open to all kinds of expressions of love and appreciation.
Double Empathy Problem
The Double Empathy Problem is a concept that has been gaining more attention in recent years, particularly in relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It refers to the idea that both neurotypical individuals and autistic individuals may struggle to understand each other’s perspectives, leading to communication breakdowns and misunderstandings.
Origins of the Double Empathy Problem:
The Double Empathy Problem was first proposed by Damian Milton, a researcher and autistic activist, in his 2012 paper “On the Ontological Status of Autism: The ‘Double Empathy Problem’”. Milton argued that the traditional approach to autism research and intervention, which focuses on identifying and treating deficits in autistic individuals, fails to take into account the role of social and cultural context in shaping communication and interaction. According to Milton, both neurotypical and autistic individuals have their own unique sets of social and communicative norms, and failure to understand and accommodate for these differences can lead to mutual misunderstandings.
Implications for Autism:
The Double Empathy Problem has important implications for how we think about and approach autism. One of the key implications is that interventions that focus solely on changing autistic behavior and communication may not be effective in improving social interactions with neurotypical individuals. Instead, it may be necessary to work on improving understanding and accommodation of autistic communication styles and social norms by neurotypical individuals as well.
Furthermore, the Double Empathy Problem challenges the traditional notion that autistic individuals are inherently deficient in social skills or empathy. Rather, it suggests that social communication difficulties may arise from a lack of mutual understanding and accommodation between individuals with different communication styles and norms.
In order to address the Double Empathy Problem, we propose. These include:
Increasing your awareness:
Raising your awareness about the Double Empathy Problem and the unique communication styles and social norms of autistic individuals can help to improve understanding and accommodation by neurotypical partners.
Encouraging collaborative communication and co-construction of meaning, where both parties work together to create shared understanding, can help to bridge communication gaps and reduce misunderstandings.
Neurodiversity acceptance: Embracing neurodiversity and recognizing the value of different communication styles and social norms can help to promote greater understanding and accommodation of our autistic partners.
We would love to create a safe place for you to break the painful patterns of the past and communicate in a new way. Please fill out our contact form and we will be glad to connect you with one of our team members.