Part 115: Communication Mode Conflict

Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. Thank you for being here. I like writing this blog but, to be honest, I don’t do it for myself; I appreciate everyone who visits and reads it. This week’s blog might be a bit shorter than some of my epics, for no reason other than my spoon level is low, and even a blog I enjoy writing takes effort. So, before I go further, let’s hold it there… I used the phrase, to be honest, a couple of sentences ago. That’s an odd phrase that so many of us inject into our speech, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t you be honest? And if you were going to lie, would drawing attention to the lie by claiming you were being honest be a good strategy? We human beings, neurodivergent and neurotypical alike, do some odd things with our communication. Two issues that are unrelated other than by the realm of communication have prompted me into this week’s blog. Let’s start with that current bugbear of mine, the World Cup in Qatar. I’ve already nailed my colours to the mast on this one. The human rights record of Qatar stinks, and FIFA has plumbed new depths of financial greed in pursuing this World Cup. The whole thing sickens me, and even though I love football (the tactical side is one of my autistic special interests), I’m having nothing to do with this tournament. But everywhere I go, people are talking about it. To be specific, they are talking to me about it. What can I do, given my stance on this World Cup? How should I respond? To explain why this is a problem, I should backtrack a bit…

Regular readers will already know this, but as a catchup or reminder… I received a formal autism diagnosis at age 54. I’d been on a waiting list for nineteen months, during which time I had effectively self-diagnosed. Previous to this, I had lived a life of aggressive masking in order to fit into a world in which I did not feel at home. I created a number of different mask personae over the decades, and in the years leading up to my neurodivergent eclosure had become known as someone dynamic, driven, and uncompromising. (Boy, did that change once autistic burnout flattened me.) In this personae, if someone had come talking to me about a World Cup I was boycotting on ideological grounds, I would have very bluntly told them I didn’t want to partake in it, and why. And people who knew me would have expected such a blunt response in those circumstances. I wasn’t always blunt about everything (so toss that stereotype in the bin on your way out), but on issues where I felt an uncompromising approach was needed, well, that’s what people got. These days, having aged a little, lost 90% of my self-confidence (autistic burnout again), and become more reserved, I’m less likely to speak my mind so hastily. And being openly, vocally, autistic whilst passionate about myth-busting autism, I’m cautious about doing anything that might feed into myths about autistic people. This puts me in the peculiar position of sometimes masking what is a natural (autistic) behaviour to me, simply as a result of being openly autistic but understanding neurotypical biases against autistic people. Yes, I am Schrodinger’s Autist! Frequently this week, I have responded with calculated neurotypical-style politeness to small-talk about the World Cup when comments or questions have been aimed directly at me. Why? Because if I answered honestly (“I’m not interested in watching or talking about this World Cup because the human rights situation in Qatar turns my stomach and the greed of FIFA infuriates me”), I know someone would look at me like I had two heads, and I don’t have the spoons to deal with those reactions right now. Okay, so that was the first issue about communication – I said there were two things, didn’t I? Here comes the second…

I’m still – yes, still – looking for somewhere to live. I’m currently in a rented flat, having sold my house a while back when my marriage broke down. I’m desperate to have my own place again. The housing market has been out of control for a while, and I’ve been disappointed and gazumped on offers for several properties. This week, a house came up for sale just a few doors away from a house I used to own and have always regretted leaving. The estate agent’s photos looked great, and the description on Rightmove waxed somewhat lyrical about the new bathroom, new carpets, etc. So, I went for a viewing. Oh. My. God. The property was in an appalling state, and my estimate would have been around £15,000 and a few weeks of work just to make it liveable. Even by estate agent standards, the chasm between the description on the website and the reality was stunning. I later worked out that the photos used on the agent’s website were several years old, taken before the previous occupant ( a rental tenant) had completely trashed the house. This was just one of many properties I’ve viewed that have borne little relation to their description. Why do estate agents misdescribe properties in this way? The obvious answer many people trot out is that the agents need to at least get people to come and look at a property, and then maybe they can bag a sale. To me, this is a typically neurotypical answer, and it bears up to no scrutiny whatsoever. Do we really think that an estate agent will be able to sell a property to someone who doesn’t want it just because the website description is better than the reality? No, of course not. All that happens in these situations is that people roll up for a viewing, see they’ve been misled, and give it an instant nope. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way, and some estate agents do get it right. I feel like applauding when I see a property described as needing a full renovation or full modernisation. These properties will still sell to people who want that kind of thing, and it means buyers like myself who are looking for something needing more modest personalisation are not having their time wasted. So the question remains, why do estate agents misdescribe some properties so blatantly? I can only put it down to laziness. I don’t mind people being lazy if that’s the way they are… unless it ends up wasting my time and effort, dammit!

My decision to sometimes continue to use masking behaviours in my communication even though I am openly autistic is a result of not being a lazy thinker. When I think through certain situations, I modify my behaviour to get a more palatable outcome. I think unmasking as an autistic person is important for good mental health. I’ve blogged at length on several occasions about how prolonged masking leads to autistic burnout. But no matter how openly autistic I am, I know that no autistic person is ever going to have a world in which neurotypical people are not there, with all their judgemental biases against us, and so some modulation is required. Thus, I will not be too blunt with people who want to engage in small talk about the World Cup. But I wouldn’t lie about a property just to waste the time of innocent househunters.

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That’s all for this week. Until next time, take care.


You can find The Autistic Writer on all your favourite social media channels

Why Do I Write This Blog?

When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism.  I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation.  With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery.  Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers.  I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.

You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.

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