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Don’t See Me, Hear Me

I wonder sometimes, what communication must be like for Neurotypical people. Today I’m particularly curious about the way they feel about subtext in conversations. Does it feel good when someone is able to “read between the lines” and understand what you’re not saying? Do they feel seen when someone reads their body language and addresses what they may be feeling instead of only what they’re saying out loud?

Because I can imagine that in some cases it feels like a kindness for someone to understand what you want to say but can’t say due to the social conventions in play. But only if it’s something you actually want to communicate to that person.

And I can accept that that’s a whole realm of communication I may never fully understand. But here’s what it’s like for me:

It feels incredibly invasive to have someone try to read between the lines or read my body language to figure out what I’m not saying. I put a lot of effort into communicating exactly what I want to communicate, nothing more and nothing less. Because if I’m not saying it or communicating it, then maybe it’s not for you. Maybe I don’t want you to know that. Trust me, if I wanted you to know, I would make sure you knew.

I understand now what some of my fellow autistics mean when they say they find eye-contact invasive. Eye contact has always been a bit of a mystery to me, but not particularly uncomfortable. The idea that NT people actually are communicating information via the eyes is mind-blowing to this day, but if that’s the case then it makes perfect sense why some autistics would find that so invasive! It’s literally someone trying to read your mind through your eyes. Ew!

Especially lately, I rebel so hard against the idea that autistics have any inherent communication deficits. I’m actually excellent at communication, thank you very much. It’s other people’s insistence on creating additional meaning where there isn’t any that creates misunderstandings. I’m actually being completely clear in saying what I want to say.

So how about instead of trying to read between the lines and see past my words, you just listen to the message I’m actually trying to convey.

A light-skinned black woman crouched down beside her daughter whispering in her ear.
Photo by Sai De Silva / Unsplash-

It makes me wonder if part of the intimacy of whispers is giving up the body language information to listen to what they’re saying, trusting that they’re telling you what they need you to hear.


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