Getting social feedback without losing your ability to trust your own judgement

nemesissy:

realsocialskills:

xulsigae said to realsocialskills:

Is it common to feel a lack of inner ‘social ground’ to stand on with Aspergers?

I’ve kinda lost a sense of knowing when something I do is actually right or acceptable after years of thinking what I did was right, but then finding out it was inappropriate.

I know I have a strong moral compass, but my social one is wonky. Now I rely on the feedback of others to know when I’m doing okay.

Are there any ideas for how to create an inner knowledge of what is right without using others?

realsocialskills said:

That’s complicated. I’m making a lot of guesses about where you’re coming from which may or may not be correct.

It sounds to me like maybe you’re figuring out that it’s important to get feedback, and having trouble figuring out how to do that without losing yourself.

I think part of what would help is to keep this in perspective:

  • Everybody makes social mistakes.
  • Social learning is a lifelong process for everyone (including people who are not autistic)
  • One of the most important social skills is figuring out how to get good feedback from others, and how to learn from what they tell you
  • This is true of everyone. Needing feedback is not a flaw. Everyone needs feedback.
  • Not everyone knows they need feedback; your awareness that you need feedback is actually an important social skill you’ve learned

Also, people who say that you’ve done something inappropriate probably aren’t always right. It can be hard to keep that in mind when you know that you make a lot of mistakes, but it’s important. The point here is to develop and improve your own judgment, not to abdicate it.

Learning how to manage feedback can be hard. Here’s a basic outline about some ways feedback should work:

  • You realize that you’re not sure about something
  • You figure out whose perspective you’d value about that thing
  • Or someone else tells you what they think about something you did
  • You ask them about the thing
  • They tell you what they think
  • You listen to what they think
  • You think about whether you agree
  • You might decide that you agree, or that you disagree
  • Or that you partially agree
  • Or that you need to process more
  • All of those are fine

Dealing with feedback involves several skills:

Noticing situations in which someone else’s perspective might be helpful, for instance:

  • If people are reacting in ways you don’t understand, it might be worth getting someone else’s perspective on what’s going on
  • If you’re saying things that aren’t being heard, it might be worth getting someone else’s perspective
  • (eg: Is the problem that the people you’re talking to are jerks? Are you saying things to them that are invasive? Are there ways you could be communicating more effectively? Do you need to find different people to interact with?)
  • If you’re really uncomfortable with something that’s happening, it might be worth getting someone else’s feedback on what’s going on (sometimes this is really helpful in realizing that it’s ok to object to something or have boundaries)

A more concrete example of a situation in which it might be helpful to look for feedback:

  • You’re having trouble understanding what you’re supposed to do at work
  • When you ask your boss questions, you don’t get helpful answers.
  • You might ask a friend or coworker who you respect what they think is going on
  • (eg: They might tell you that the boss hates email and that you need to ask questions in person, or vice versa. Or that the boss doesn’t know how to answer that kind of question and you have to find the answers elsewhere. Or any number of other possibilities.)

Figuring out whose feedback is valuable:

  • Not everyone’s feedback is valuable; it’s important to figure out for yourself who you want to listen to and when
  • Some people know what they’re talking about and can tell you valuable things about how you’re interacting with others
  • Some people really, really don’t know what they’re talking about and will give you terrible advice
  • A lot of people have good feedback on some things but not others
  • Some people are really good at sounding right whether they know what they are talking about or not
  • It can be hard to figure out who to listen to, especially if you’re new to realizing that you need feedback

Listening to feedback, and evaluating it seriously:

  • If you value someone’s opinion, it’s important to listen to what they have to say
  • And to figure out why they think it
  • It doesn’t mean you have to agree; no matter how much you respect someone, they will be wrong some of the time.
  • It does mean that it’s important to listen to them, and to make sure that you really understand what they’re saying and why, before you decide what you think

Avoiding some feedback-avoidance defensiveness pitfalls:

  • Some feedback is hard to hear
  • It can be easy to react defensively, as a way to avoid engaging
  • One way to be defensive is to immediately say “no, that’s not true” or “no, I’m not the kind of person who would do that” without first listening to the person
  • Another way of avoiding painful feedback is to panic-apologize out of fear.
  • That can be a way of avoiding the feedback too because you can feel like you’ve dealt with it by apologizing even if all you’ve really heard is that someone is upset with you

An example of not listening:

  • You: So, I was telling Mary how great my awesome dog is, and she looked really angry. What gives?
  • Them: Mary’s dog just died. It was kind of insensitive to go on about yours.
  • You: But I was just trying to be nice!

Another example of not listening:

  • You: So, I was telling Mary how great my awesome dog is, and she looked really angry. What gives?
  • Them: Mary’s dog just died. It was kind of insensitive to go on about yours.
  • You (without really understanding the problem): Oh. I’m a terrible person. I can’t believe I would be so insensitive.
  • (If you just emote about guilt without figuring out what they think the problem is and whether you agree, that’s not listening; it’s a defense mechanism)

An example of listening:

  • You: So, I was telling Mary how great my awesome dog is, and she looked really angry.
  • Them: Mary’s dog just died. It was kind of insensitive to go on about yours.
  • You: Really? I was trying to be nice and connect around a shared interest.
  • Them: When people are mourning the loss of a pet, they don’t usually want to hear about how great things are with someone else’s. It can feel like rubbing it in.

Sometimes it can feel like everyone else has it all together, that everyone else knows how to act, and that only you make major mistakes. That’s not true. Everyone is getting things wrong; everyone has social skills they could improve; that’s not unique to autistic people.

It might help to keep in mind that you don’t have to be socially infallible to be ok. You have a moral compass, and you know a lot about how to interact with people. And you also make mistakes sometimes, and have areas you could improve on. That’s an ok way to be, and feedback can make learning and improving easier.

nemesissy said:

*jazz fingers* to all of this

though I would add the caveat: emotional responses work on their own logic, which may not be clear to others. if someone appears to be responding badly to you, sometimes it’s because they have hang-ups or various emotional weirdnesses- which may actually include, like, giving off signals that can read as disinterest/negativity when there’s no such intent behind them! And, while it’s your responsibility, up to a point, to be generous about their motivations being valid and deserving of respect, it doesn’t mean you did something necessarily wrong or bad; it just means that that interaction didn’t go well, for various reasons.

(I point this out because, for YEARS, I was convinced that if someone responded in a weird way to something, it was because I did something wrong; later I realised that, you know, I’m not the only one bringing my emotional issues to conversations, and that allistic[-presenting] people sometimes also have shit going on that I couldn’t know about and that might be hard to navigate for anyone.)

realsocialskills said:

That’s a good point, (and part of what I was getting at in my post Stop Romanticizing Neurotypicality.) Thank you.