I think I might be hurting people with this blog, in the same way that social skills talk usually hurts people.
In part because I just came across this post on Ballastexistenz (I was googling for something I remembered seeing about the spoon theory), which describes something really destructive about how social skills get discussed:
I find books like this interesting. Not just this one, but ones that are targeted at least partially at autistic people, and aim to teach us codes of social behavior. I don’t think that these are bad codes to know, and they can be very interesting and useful to find out about. But I think there’s a danger in assuming that everyone should follow them, or that everyone should follow the same social codes. Or even that everyone can follow them. I’m all for informed choice, which includes the informed part, but imposing these as standards on everyone would not work. I find it far more important and feasible to, where possible, be considerate of other people, than to be considerate of them in a specific way according to a specific code. If I’m very much up to it, I might follow a specific code, but it simply can’t be counted on.
…(there is a bunch more post here, which is really important and worth reading, but cutting to make a manageable post size)…
I’m not trying to say that these things aren’t useful to know about, or that the book isn’t useful in that regard, at least for knowing a particular segment of American culture’s unwritten rules. But most of the autistic people I know, are not in a position to do many of these things, despite the fact that they are presented in absolutes as our responsibility to somehow do Or Else. And apparently autism is merely an excuse in these matters, not to try doing them.
I’ve really liked you so far, realsocialskills, but if I read this and knew less about social norms, it could seriously mess me up. I could be changed such that I never complimented anyone’s hair - not my boyfriend, not my crushes, not my mom. And if anyone, ever, in any relationship with me, complimented me on mine, I would unilaterally interpret that as bad in one of the ways you describe. That shit’s dangerous.
And like, that poster is right. I said some things that are true in that post, and others that are misleading, and perhaps dangerously so. And I’ll try to address the ones I know something about.
And… I’ve said some other things that are about the unwritten rules and why they are rules and why not following them can hurt people. But that doesn’t mean I think everyone can or should follow the rules, or even that I know all of the rules or have good theories in all cases about which rules to follow (I don’t. I really don’t. There’s a LOT I don’t understand).
I don’t want to do a thing that just explicates a standard of conformity that if you follow it, you’re good, and if you don’t, you’re not. Because it *doesn’t work like that*.
And I’ve said some other things that I think are being interpreted as rules (in particular, that post I wrote about repetition that got thousands of reblogs), which really *don’t help at all* if people try to follow them as mechanical rules. And a lot of people made comments on that which sounded to me like “Yay! A rule! Now I will know how to Deal With Those People!”. That scares me. It really, really scares me – because if people see it that way, they’ll roll over people and it will be bad.
All I’m trying to do here is to explain some things I think I know. I’m right about some of them, and I’m wrong about a lot of them, and I’m not really adequately conveying the nuances of any of them.
I’m trying, but this stuff is *complicated*, and this is really my first serious attempt to talk about it. I don’t know how to do it very well yet.
And I’m worried that people might be trying to take what I say as authoritative and use it as rules and – that’s really REALLY not a good idea. I know some things, but there are wide gaps in what I know and – don’t take what I say and override your own judgement. Take what I say as things that are worth considering and evaluating.
I’m not saying this to abdicate responsibility for what I write – I know that I am responsible for the harm that my writing does, and responsible for writing in a way that doesn’t harm people — but I also really, really do not want to be anyone’s guru or anything because that *always* ends badly.
And I know there are a lot of blogs that shout people down for relying on their own judgement rather than immediately believing what someone says about how to act right – just want to be clear that I am really trying not to do that here. It’s only possible to act right if you are using your own judgement; I don’t want anyone to substitute mine for theirs *even when I am right*.