Honesty, Loyalty, and Autism

Two of the positive attributes attributed to those with Asperger’s/Autism are loyalty and honesty.

People with autism are very loyal. I have always felt strong loyalty toward my employers (although none have ever returned the favor). I am fiercely loyal to my wife (though my fierce honesty does sometimes make it appear otherwise — though I promise [Sweetie] that in my mind the two do not conflict). I am loyal to all my friends and family. It’s part of my nature. But it appears that it is in the nature of any with autism.

Now, the issue of honesty is an interesting one. It’s not that someone with autism cannot lie. I can lie. Daniel can lie. I’ve caught him. But he’s easily caught out, primarily because when he’s accused of lying and he’s not, he has a huge meltdown over it. So if he’s calm after you accuse him of lying, he’s lying. And as for me, when I lie, it really, really, really, really, really bothers me. It’s like a deep brain itch I can’t scratch. So I don’t lie. It just bothers me too deeply, and I’d rather not be that uncomfortable all the time.

At the same time, people with autism are known to believe pretty much anything anyone says to them. This is perhaps attributable to the fact that with theory of mind, one attributes others as having the same mind as oneself. I don’t lie, therefore others don’t lie. Except that’s not true. People lie all the time. And when you reach the level of self-awareness I have about who I am, especially in regards to my high functioning autism, you come to realize just how much people lie all the time.

I’m still prone to believe you in the moment, but I can at least now look back and see I’ve been lied to.

For example, when I tell you I’m going to do something, you can go to the bank on it (unless my terrible memory makes me forget). I remember things better if I write them down; if I write something down, you can guarantee I’ll do it. It doesn’t matter what it is; it doesn’t matter how small it is; it doesn’t matter if I’m tired or if something else comes up. If I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it. However, this is absolutely not true at all when it comes to neurotypicals. I have noticed neurotypicals will tell you they will do something, then change their minds or come up with some excuse for why they can’t, etc. And this is assuming they ever intended to do it at all, and weren’t just trying to make you feel better or shut up at that moment.

This is where conflicts between those with autism and neurotypicals can arise. Two neurotypicals will lie to each other without a second thought about doing something together, and then blow it off when minds are changed. Do that to someone with autism, and they will say, “Nope, that’s what you said. You said you were going to do it.” Thus, those with autism tend to “call out” neurotypicals on their small lies with which they fill the day. And let’s face it: people don’t like to be called out on their b.s. But since autistics don’t like to lie, and therefore don’t like to be lied to, they have a tendency to point it out when you lied to them. Thus, a source of our “social awkwardness.”

Indeed, people want to be lied to all the time. They want to be told they look nice when they don’t. They want to be told their project is good when it isn’t. They want to be told they’re good people who don’t lie all the time just to get through the day. But you know what you won’t get from someone with autism? Any of those things. They’ll tell you you don’t look nice in that dress. They’ll actually critique your work. And they’ll write blog posts telling you that you are all a bunch of petty liars. And that, too, is a source of our social awkwardness.

Of course, the tendency to believe others when they say things can get someone with autism in trouble. Suppose you have two people, one (A) with autism, another (B) who is neurotypical. They are working on a project together. B is working on something that must be finished before A can work on his part. A asks B how things are going. B says he ran into a problem, but he was working on it and would let A know when it was ready for him. Do you know what A will do? A will believe B and not bother B ever again. Three weeks later, when the boss asks A about the project, A will tell the boss about the conversation he and B had — and guess who will get in the most trouble? It will be A, who knew there was a delay, but didn’t come forward sooner. A of course won’t understand in what the problem is or why he’s suddenly in trouble. If someone points out to him that he should have come forward sooner, he will reply that that make sense, but in reality it doesn’t make that much sense to him. Didn’t B say he was handling it? If this happens to A enough times, he’ll end up fired, but be completely clueless about why he was fired.

Now, I can point all of these things out, but all of this comes about from reading and from thinking through past experiences. I have a head-knowledge that this takes place, but it is unfortunately only intellectual and not useful knowledge. I know I will continue to make these mistakes, and it’s frustrating to know that you will and also to know that in the moment, you will “forget” all that you know.

About the only thing I know to do is to beg those who have to deal with those with autism on a daily basis to please always say exactly what you mean and mean exactly what you say. If you say you are going to do something , please do it. It’s extremely frustrating for the autistics in your life if you don’t.

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10 thoughts on “Honesty, Loyalty, and Autism

  1. Move into a new neighborhood, meet some neighbors, nice lady next door shows the kids her birds. She says they can come over whenever they want. I do my best to block them from bothering her, but they probably end up on her front porch about once a week during summer months. To the point that there was a party at her house one night, and at 1 am my husband hears her by her bonfire, drunkenly shouting and cussing up a storm about her blankity-blank neighbors and their out-of-control children. It really scared us. I had to lay down the law and say they were absolutely NOT allowed to the neighbor’s house, not allowed on her lawn, and if she’s out back in her yard do NOT yell over the fence or talk to her, EVER, and in fact mostly kept them inside for the next few weeks so things could cool down. The children were completely baffled. “But why?” “Because I don’t want you bothering her.” “We’re not bothering her! She said we could come over whenever we wanted!” “She lied.” “But she said it’s okay!” My heart broke for them. “I know she said that, but she was lying. She doesn’t want you bothering her.” They were really hurt. I hate that everyone lies. It complicates and confuses things, and I can’t stand to be confused. (Note: no one in my family is diagnosed with autism/Asperger. Online quizzes indicate Asperger’s is likely for me (for what that’s worth), but I have no interest in testing the children at this time.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, for some reason people think they are “being nice” when they lie like that. Somehow it never occurs to them to maybe just not say something like that at all.

      After my son was diagnosed and my wife and brother insisted I was on the spectrum, I took some of those online questionnaires. Always showed me as borderline Asperger’s/autistic. I was officially diagnosed as having Asperger’s by a neurologist this past Fall. So in my case, at least, the questionnaires were accurate.

      If the kids are doing well in school and so forth, a diagnosis is just a diagnosis. Just keep in mind that they need to be prepared in a more explicit way for a lot of life outside of school. I did well in college, and fantastic in grad school. The world of employment, however, has been a different thing entirely.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It may very well be a trait of neurotypical people to lie, as you said. However, I would dare to say that it is a trait of American neurotypical people.

    I am not originally from the United States. Not long after I had settled here, I noticed the same thing you said. People would invite me over, sometime, they would say. I soon learnt that sometime was actually “nevertime.” They would say, “Let’s get together for dinner one of these days.” I went hungry waiting for them. (I’m being sarcastic.)

    I soon started to get in trouble at work. I came from a country where you have to be able to do the job of 4-5 people. If not, you were out and they could easily find a replacement amongst the unemployed, who were roughly 21% of a 38.000.000 population. So I kept working at the speed and quality I was used to, only to be called by my supervisor who asked me to slow down because 1) I was upsetting my coworkers, forcing them to work faster, skipping lunch to catch up, and having to actually put 8 hours of work a day; 2) I was making my coworkers look bad; 3) They couldn’t find enough things for me to do or to keep me busy.

    Another thing I have noticed: The use and abuse of “I love you.” We don’t say that where I come from. That extreme may not be good, either. We may say it only in the written form. But we show it with actions.

    Where I come from, if we invite you over right there on the spot, we mean it. We may drag you to a restaurant and pay for your coffee. We find you’re new in town, we invite over to a BBQ and introduce you to our entire family and close friends, we make sure you have a place to stay, help you learn your way around, where to shop for groceries, which places to avoid, you name it.

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    1. I have been in trouble also a lot, due to my honesty. Both in and out of work. My entire family is honest, brutally honest I may even dare to say. But we wouldn’t have it any other day. We can’t sleep at night if we lie or do anybody wrong.

      I learnt to lie in this country. I had to lie to avoid racism and hate for being an immigrant. I don’t like saying where I’m from. In later years, I have regressed to my more British pronunciation. English is not my first language and I was taught British English. People would assume that I was from Europe and pretty much leave me alone. Yes, I come from two European families and look European. But I have never set foot in the Old World. And I have found out my life is easier when I just don’t correct other people’s assumptions in that regard.

      It is sad. But it is what it is.

      Just know that some of us “neurotypicals” are anything. It your typical neurotypical.

      And thank you for teaching me about the other side of the fence. It will help me understand mg daughter even more and be a better mom for her, as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I”m very glad if anything I’ve said has helped you that way.

        I for one love reading about your perspectives on these things. When you’re embedded in a culture, it’s hard to see the strange elements of it–such as the “virtual invitations” we do. We just throw them around so casually, and to an American, it’s no big deal. And we have no earthly idea that’s not done elsewhere. So I like it when someone from somewhere else says, “Hey, did you know you did this really weird thing?” Because we all do, in each of our cultures, have these weird things we do but don’t notice because it’s “normal” to us.

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    2. Well, here in the U.S. it’s considered rude not to extend what one could call a “virtual invitation” that may or may not result in an actual invitation anywhere. We understand that nobody means it unless a very specific time and place is designated. It’s a cultural quirk and isn’t really meant as a “lie” per se. Americans are full of polite/white lies.

      The work thing, though, is annoying. How Americans supposedly outperform everyone else is beyond me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Funny, because these are the things you cannot figure out on your own as an immigrant. And in the almost 17 years I’ve been here, nobody has explained it to me until you just did. I basically learnt to take it with a grain of salt when someone would “invite me over” unless we would make specific plans. Now I know. But I didn’t know it was the way you say. I just assumed the specific people who would “vitually invite” me were the kind who would never follow through.

        We don’t do that with my foreigner friends. We are from many different nations and continents and when we say “let’s get together sometime soon,” we mean it and we set up time and date and place in the next few days, if not on the spot. We may not actually get together for several weeks. However, we make the plans almost immediately or as soon as possible. We all consider it rude to not follow through.

        Cultural differences, I guess. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When you have the constant experience of seeing everything from both the inside and the outside simultaneously, it becomes easy to understand what’s really going on when someone points out some silliness you’re used to within a culture. Of course, I have also published several scholarly pieces on the structures of social rules, so maybe it’s just me. At the same time, I have a tendency to know the rules while being unable to abide by them most of the time (I’m pretty sure an autistic trait), so you never know. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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