Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Communicating without Body Language

I am talking with a friend and we just came to this very meaningful realization. My friend said that it is frustrating trying to have a conversation with someone on IM because you can't understand them as well. I said, what do you mean, I find using words to be far easier. She said "Well, but you miss out on the body language..." Then she said - this was a great insight on her part - "I wonder if the trouble I have understanding you on IM without the body language is similar to what you feel on a daily basis having Asperger's and trying to communicate with people without being able to read their body language." And I was just like... Bingo. That is so it. That is such a great analogy. She says "Lacking the cues I normally rely on such as your tone of voice, it feels so much more uncertain." Uncertain - is the perfect word to describe how pretty much every single interaction every single one every single word feels every single day. It is exhausting to deal with so much uncertainty and to plow through it despite the anxiety of it every day. But I do it because the alternative -isolation- is to me unthinkable.

With her permission I am pasting the relevant parts of the conversation here. I would love to know if other people can relate to what we are talking about or have experienced it in their lives, whether NT or AS. 

It goes without saying, for any people who may be reading this without much knowledge of AS, that people with AS have trouble reading body language or nonverbal signals in others and tend to over-rely on words. That is why they can often sound overly pedantic and a little fixated on words .


Yes I thought of that as soon as I typed it. I rely on body language but you may not.  No I guess it's not true that I understand" completely" but I see my daughter struggle with language and communication. A better response would have been" I have sympathy or empathy for that struggle".

Ugh us NT's are confusing! Lol I'm totally seeing my awkward wording and wish I could communicate via type better. It must be so frustrating to feel that verbally with people. Or to understand all their assumptions and nuances.


Ah yes that is a better way to put it thank you . Yes, I think you have gotten it there. Because you rely on body language and because I was barely aware it existed until recently, it is very likely that what you were feeling just now trying to communicate with me with just words is what I feel every waking minute of my life trying to communicate with others. THAT could actually be a FASCINATING analogy to use to get other people to understand how isolating it is! Do you think?


Yes I think it fits perfectly! I very much became aware of how it must feel.  Lacking the cues I normally rely on such as your tone of voice, it feels so much more uncertain.

Kate Goldfield

Yes, uncertain. Communications are so uncertain for me that I always have anxiety in them. I think most Aspies do. I can have a million good thoughts in my head but as soon as it's time to talk I'm stuttering, stammering, unable to look someone in the face and having "um" every other word because I just have no idea of what I'm "supposed" to be doing and therefore no confidence in what I'm saying. Not all the time, but more often than I'd like. Certainly, tonight at the bookstore.

But situations in which the social rules are clearly defined, I am fine. That is why I am far more comfortable giving a presentation in front of 50 or 100 people then talking one on one with most people, because the rules are clear for the presentation. The rules for the one on one ? CONSTANTLY changing. Enough to drive a person INSANE.

I can't look at them often because there is so much INFORMATION in their face but I can't decode any of it, and it is frustrating and distracting. I don't want to be left out, so I try anyway. I think of what I wanted to say and say it. But because I am not decoding all of their information, it rarely sounds natural. It rarely flows with what they  are saying and thinking. It comes out as forced and intense and unnatural and they will still reply usually - not always - but I am ALWAYS aware of how unnatural what I say sounds compared to the way others do it and if I let it, it would drive me mad.

Certainly, that realization was responsible for 90% of the reason I spent hours after nearly every college class sobbing on the nearest couch. That isolation is intense. That feeling of being shut out is intense.

It's still there... I just try to fight it more and have gotten slightly better at fighting it by finding people more receptive to my communication style who are more able to make me feel heard and quell the loneliness and isolation. But still not as much as I need. It's so hard. To even make people understand there is a gap. They are so not aware of it and it is a really hard thing to put into words, but it is so obvious to me. I am thankful for the people I know... but I wish ... there was less of a gap. I have to be careful not to let my mind go there too much, but it still deserves to be said.

Yes I can see that when I think about it. Each person with their own unique body language,  expressions and tone of voice. How do you know what means what? Like being around someone who's unstable all the time. Unpredictable.My God yes I would be sobbing on a couch too. Incredibly draining. Yes surround yourself with the people who understand your communication style. But yes that fact will always be a hard one. You need to find ways to not dwell on it. OR let it bring down your self esteem.

Ugh look at my awkward wording!! Lol it pales next to your eloquence

Kate Goldfield
No you're fine don't worry about it!  I appreciate your effort. Hmmmm. I don't know. The few times I've mentioned to (P erson) how awkward I feel I sound she seems to be genuinely shocked that I would say that. She doesn't seem to feel that way. But I watch her with (Other person) or with everyone else. How do I not feel bad that their conversation style is so easy and flowing full of shared information, shared emotion, which I want more than anything in the world? My heart hurts just thinking about it, even right now.

Kate Goldfield
I might have technical eloquence, but you have emotional presence, and that is far more important.

Do you think you don't have emotional prescence?

It's why Aspies get so obsessed with words and like puns a lot often I think. We depend on words to express how we feel.
It depends on how you define emotional presence..
That is a tricky one.

Yes cause I would say you most definitely do.

Kate Goldfield
I do feel that I am good at describing something but not good at feeling something WITH someone.
You've never met me or talked to me in person though and I would say that the kind of emotional presence I am talking about can only be felt in person.


Right that's true. But there's definitely a part of one's prescience on the internet. A vibe so to speak.
Good night!
Let's try to continue if you'd like.
Another day.

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