One of my friends keeps trying to “diagnose” me with autism, even though I’m almost 100% sure I don’t have autism. It’s getting really irritating. But I don’t know how to tell her to stop doing that without sounding like I think there’s something wrong with being autistic. Do you have any advice?
realsocialskills said:
I think there are several issues here:
  • There is nothing more private than your brain
  • You get to decide whether you’re interested in hearing someone’s perspective on your brain
  • You get to decide what you think
  • You get to decide which perspectives you want to keep hearing
  • It’s not ok for friends to keep making invasive personal comments after you’ve let them know that you want them to stop

Concerns about ableism:

  • I don’t know why your friend thinks you’re autistic and why you think you’re not
  • It’s possible that some of your reasons might be ableist. (I’m autistic, and ableism is part of the reason it took me so long to figure it out. A lot of my friends knew before I did.)
  • (It’s also possible that you’re entirely right to think that you’re not autistic.)
  • Even if some of your reasons are ableist, you’re still allowed to want your friend to stop trying to diagnose you
  • The possibility that you are being ableist doesn’t entitle others to make invasive personal comments about your brain
  • You don’t have to be perfect to be allowed to have boundaries about what aspects of your personal life you are and aren’t willing to discuss

Concerns about how you’ll be perceived if you ask your friend to knock it off:

  • I think the best way to assert this boundary is to do so without much explanation, eg:
  • “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”
  • You don’t have to have a reason that sounds compelling to have the right to say no
  • And if you try to explain, it’s more likely to sound ableist whether or not it is.
  • Also, if you explain, you’re talking about it, which is exactly what you didn’t want to do in the first place
  • You don’t need your friend’s permission to think you’re not autistic
  • You don’t need your friend’s permission to decide that you don’t want to talk about this
  • Your friend should respect this boundary, even if they think you are wrong
  • Part of being a respectful friend means honoring boundaries about which personal things they do and don’t want to discuss
  • If your friend tries to insist on telling you that you’re autistic, it’s not evidence that you’re doing something wrong. It just means that they’re not respecting your boundary in this area.
  • There are no guarantees about how they will react, but it’s likely to go better if you assert your boundary in a matter-of-fact way without arguing about it

Good luck. I hope that you and your friend are able to work this out.