I want to write about how arrogant it is to assume that one knows what another person intends better than that other person does.
Quick note: I’m not talking about intuition or situations of abuse. If your intuition is telling you that someone is not a good person for you to be around then you shouldn’t be around that person. If someone’s words and actions aren’t matching up and you’re finding yourself constantly second-guessing your impressions, if there’s not a mutual seeking to better understand and be understood, or if you are being harmed in any way then it likely isn’t a healthy relationship for you (and possibly not for the other person either).
It’s so important to believe people when they react to an experience and it’s also important not to take on extra responsibility and stress yourself without very good and clear cause. This doesn’t mean that anyone should continue voluntarily exposing themselves to people who harm and exhaust them though. Self-protection is vitally important too.
On the one hand it seems as though recognizing that another person is the expert on their own motivations and feelings should be common sense and yet it’s really not. People make assumptions about those things all the time.
Very often I’ve even found that people are more willing to believe their wrong assumptions than they are to believe me even when I’ve clearly clarified that my intent was completely different than what they’ve assumed.
That is not okay. Not even a little bit.
This week on twitter a story was related about an Autistic employee who was granted permission to wear headphones to shut out noises they were sensitive to. Later on this employee was reprimanded for “shutting out” the rest of their co-workers.
That kind of assumption and reaction is extremely damaging and very probably prevents people from requesting reasonable accommodations in the first place. If we face assumptions and social punishments for simply trying to protect ourselves from very real sensitivities using an employer-approved device, then what’s the point?
It’s a great example of how these assumptions can easily damage our ability to successfully navigate a work situation. They aren’t minor inconveniences or petty disagreements. Allistic assumptions are often not predictable to us, nor, even if they are, should we be put in the position of continually having to accommodate such a dysfunctional way of relating to others.
So, why is there this intense tendency to assume by the neuromajority?
I think this assuming may be somewhat tied into the allistic (nonaustistic) privilege of most people in the world experiencing thought processes similar to oneself. If one’s assumptions are usually correct, if everyone is expected to play the “social game,” or if these assumptions are socially rewarded most of the time then I can see how people might come to believe that they can accurately tell other people’s intentions even when that’s not necessarily the case.
I suspect that all of those three things are true for most allistics (people with allism).
But even so, how then should I look at the allistic failure to comprehend the fact that I do not, in fact, play the “social game” (and struggle mightily when I make an attempt to do so)? These are things that I’m fairly up-front about since learning that they exist and yet others’ insistence on assuming (while disbelieving my clarifications) still largely remains.
I easily recognize that others’ minds, expectations, and communication styles are different than my own. I have, after all, seen many examples of that fact during my lifetime. And yet these allistics who allegedly know better than I (being Autistic) that other people are different than they, seem to not be able to grasp that fact despite seeing Autistic (and other neurodivergent) examples.
I don’t know whether their difficulties in this area are due to socialization (of privilege? of mainly guessing correctly?) or to inborn difficulties with seeking to understand people who aren’t similar enough to them — the “other.”
Maybe we all share the latter difficulties with understanding the “other” and only those of us who aren’t in the neuro-majority have been forced to develop that skill throughout our lives since the “other” outnumbers us and wields the social power. We almost certainly experience more instances of not being understood by others and of not understanding them in return.
Regardless of the why behind it all, much allistic assuming seems to be based on what they themselves would be trying to communicate if they did or said what we do. I think that much would be solved if they would only listen and leave behind their arrogance.
Projection without reflection.
Assumption and presumption.
I’d love to see a large-scale effort to even meet us partway. That’d be swell.