consent

A problem with “behavior is communication”

In certain contexts, just about everything a disabled person does will result in someone following them around with a clipboard, taking notes on their behavior, and designing a behavior plan for them.

This is often called ‘listening to what the behavior is communicating’ or ‘keeping in mind that behavior is communication.’

I know that nothing I’ve ever done was intended to communicate ‘please put me on a behavior plan’. If anyone asked me, they would know with certainty that I don’t want them to do anything of the sort.

I’m not alone in this. Very few people would willingly consent to intense data collection of the kind involved in behavior analysis. Far fewer people would willingly consent to the ways in which that data is used to control their behavior. 

A lot of people never get asked. People do these things to them that very few people would willingly consent to — without asking, and without considering consent to be a relevant consideration.

Somehow, an approach that involves ignoring what someone might be thinking gets called ‘listening to what is being communicated’.

That is neither ethical nor logical. Behaviors don’t communicate; people do. If you want to understand what someone is thinking, you have to listen to them in a way that goes beyond what any behavior plan can do.

Collecting data is not the same as listening, modifying behavior is not the same as understanding what someone is thinking, and disabled people are fully human. 

Thinking about whether a request is likely to be welcome

There are things it’s considered rude to ask for. Sometimes it’s also considered rude to say no to some rude requests. Sometimes it’s considered rude to even show annoyance or reluctance.

This means that you can’t always tell from someone’s reactions what they are and aren’t ok with. So it’s important to think about it, and make a good guess about how someone is likely to feel before you ask them.

Sometimes you will make mistakes about this. That’s ok. Everyone makes these mistakes sometimes.

There are no hard and fast rules about what it’s polite to ask for and what it’s polite to say no to. It depends a lot on your particular subculture, and your particular relationship with the person you’re asking.

Some things to consider:

Think about how intrusive the favor is likely to be. Are you asking someone for their time? For something that will reduce their privacy? For something that could be risky, painful, or embarrassing to them? For resources? How are they likely to feel about that?

How hard or easy is it for them to say no? (It’s usually not so hard for strangers to say no. It’s much harder for friends and family.)

Have they indicated willingness to do that kind of favor? (Eg: if you’re looking for people to stay with, it’s rude to ask random strangers on the street. It’s not rude to make requests on couch surfing sites or to ask a conference that has offered to arrange home hospitality for help finding a host.)

Reciprocity is important. It’s often rude to ask a friend to do something for you that you wouldn’t do for them. (Eg: if you wouldn’t let a friend stay with you, it may be rude to ask to stay with them.)

Reciprocity doesn’t have to be doing the exact same thing. But it does usually mean being willing to help your friends in comparably significant ways.
(Eg: if you’re never willing to do significantly inconvenient things for a friend, it’s probably rude to ask to stay with them.)

It’s important to acknowledge favors. Saying thank you to someone who does you a favor makes it much more likely that they’ll feel good about it rather than resentful. Even if you’re sure that they know how you feel, saying thank you is usually important.

This isn’t an exhaustive list. There are a lot of potential factors in whether or not requests for favors are likely to be welcome. No one knows all of them. You don’t need to know all of them. The important thing is to think about it seriously and make your best guesses.

Happiness is not consent to injustice

Sometimes manipulative people will use someone’s happiness to justify mistreating them. It works something like this:

  • Sometimes people force or pressure someone into a bad situation.
  • Then they tell them that it’s really a good situation.
  • And that they’ll like it if they give it a chance.
  • They’’re treated badly, in ways that no one should have to put up with.
  • Then they, through effort and creativity, manage to enjoy some things even though the situation is bad and they’re being mistreated.
  • Maybe they even find a way to be reasonably happy a lot of the time.
  • Then the manipulative person says: See? You gave it a chance, and now you’re happy!

If someone with power over you plays this kind of mind game, it can be very disorienting. They may be able to simultaneously make you feel ashamed of objecting to their injustice, and also ashamed of any happiness you might find. But actually, it’s ok to enjoy things, it’s ok to object to mistreatment, and it’s ok to do both of those things at the same time. 

It can help to keep in mind that the world doesn’t actually revolve around the people who have unjust power over you. You do not belong to them. Your ability to enjoy things isn’t a gift they’re giving you; it’s something you’re creating even though they’re putting you into a very bad situation. Your life is yours, and so are the things you have found ways to care about. 

If people treat you unjustly, dehumanize you, or otherwise mistreat you, that is wrong even if you manage to build some good things into your life. They’re in the wrong even if you are ok, and even if you are happy. If you make the best of a bad situation, that is an accomplishment that belongs to you. It doesn’t make the situation ok, and it doesn’t give others the right to treat you badly. You don’t have to earn the right to object to mistreatment by being constantly miserable. You have every right to object to injustice and wrongs being done to you even if you are happy.

Finding things you can value and enjoy is not consent; it’s resistance. That’s why manipulative people try to co-opt it.

Tl;dr Sometimes people forced into bad situations find things to enjoy, and maybe even find ways to be happy. That doesn’t make the situations good. Some people may try to convince you that injustices done to you aren’t really unjust if you are happy. Those people are wrong. It’s ok to enjoy things, it’s ok to object to injustice, and it’s ok to do both at the same time.

Your role is not permision

Being a disability expert of some kind doesn’t give you the right to violate boundaries. People with disabilities are people. Being an expert of some kind doesn’t mean you have a relationship to them. It doesn’t mean you have any authority over them, either.

Being a parent of a disabled kid isn’t permission to take on a parental role with every disabled person you encounter.

Being a nurse doesn’t make it ok to ask people with disabilities invasive medical questions.

Being disabled doesn’t make it ok to tell other disabled people how to live their lives.

Being a special educator doesn’t give you the right to tell disabled people how their minds work. Or what they can and can’t do. Or to force them to make eye contact.

Being a therapist doesn’t make it ok to take on a therapeutic role with every disabled person you encounter. Treatment requires consent; being a therapist doesn’t make you an authority on anyone else’s life.

Being a researcher doesn’t give you the right to tell people with disabilities what they can or can’t do, or how they should live their lives.

Being disability staff doesn’t mean that random disabled people you encounter in public places need your help, or that you know how to help them, or that you have the right to tell them what to do (actually, that applies even when you *are* someone’s staff).

People with disabilities have the same rights to privacy and autonomy as anyone else. No matter what kind of expertise you have or think you have.

red flag for being taken advantage of

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

I’ve had an issue in my life with people who take advantage of me, and only recently have I been able to start recognizing a few of the red flags of that. Stuff like: You always end up paying more than (or getting less than) your fair share if you go out with them, they pressure you into doing stuff you can’t afford, etc. I think it’s wrapped up in emotional abuse, but I’m bad at seeing it. Are you better at recognizing red flags that you’re being taken advantage of, and if so, what are they?

realsocialskills said:

I think the biggest thing to watch out for is what happens when you don’t want to do something, get angry, or try to say no:

  • Is there ever a polite way to say no to something, or do you always have to either do what they want or be rude?
  • Is “I can’t afford that” something they are willing to take for an answer without arguing or guilt-tripping?
  • If you’re angry about something, do you always end up apologizing for being angry/blowing something out of proportion/etc, or do people sometimes agree that you have a point and apologize to you? (If only one of those things ever happens, that’s a problem).

If there’s a pattern where you have to be rude in order to say no, something is really wrong. Some people manipulate the rules of politeness to stop people from having boundaries or saying no to them. Some people are really good at making you feel like you’ve done something wrong every time you say no to something.

If things are going well in a friendship, everyone involved will say no from time to time. Everyone will get annoyed from time to time. Everyone will have inconvenient preferences from time to time, and everyone will compromise to accommodate the others from time to time. If you’re the only one compromising, something’s going wrong. If you’re always doing what others want even if it makes you really uncomfortable or hurts you, something’s wrong. If you’re not able to express feelings or say no, something’s wrong.

The thing going wrong might not be that people are taking advantage of you. There are other possibilities. For instance, some people are trained in childhood to never say no, and it can be hard to learn as an adult that you don’t have to want what others want, that it’s ok to say no, and that friendship involves compromises in both directions. If you haven’t learned that, it might be hard to communicate and negotiate, even if no one is intentionally taking advantage of you. That said, all of this is a major red flag for people taking advantage, and it’s worth taking the possibility very, very seriously. (And both problems can be happening at once - manipulative people usually prey on people who already have trouble asserting boundaries.)

And in any case - if you’re not ok with what’s happening, that’s a problem that matters, because it matters what you want and what your boundaries are. If you’re not ok with what’s happening, then the situation is not ok. You’re allowed to have boundaries whether or not anyone is wronging you. 

celibatesprites:

realsocialskills:

I have problems with reacting on time and I learned to cope with this by agreeing to everything. Someone asks if they can open a window, I automatically say “yes” because analyzing the situation in my mind takes a long time (they can but - I’m cold - I’d prefer if they didn’t - figuring out how to say it). People get impatient and repeat the question before I have the answer or assume I’m rude. Any ideas how to deal with being slow?
realsocialskills said:
That’s a tough problem. I don’t think there’s a simple or universal solution.
One thing I’ve found helpful is telling people I’m close to that I have this kind of problem, and asking them to ask questions differently. For instance “I’d like to open the window. Would that be ok, or do you want it to stay closed?” is easier for me to give a real answer to than “Can I open the window?”
Another thing is that sometimes I can buy time by repeating part of the question. This can also prompt them to clarify. For instance:
  • Them: Can I open a window?
  • Me: You want to open a window?
  • Them: Yes, I’m hot.
  • Me: I’m cold. Could you take off your jacket instead?

That way it breaks down into smaller steps, like this:

  1. I hear their question
  2. I process what the question is and verify that I’m right
  3. I figure out what I think and maybe say so

It can also sometime work even if I can’t say very many words right then. For instance:

  • Them: Can I open a window?
  • Me: A window?
  • Them: I’m hot.
  • Me: Too cold.
  • Them: You’ll be too cold?
  • Me: Other room?
  • Them: Ok, I can try working in the other room with one of those windows open.

This doesn’t always work, but it does sometimes.

What works for y’all in this situation?

celibatesprites said:

we find it really hard too to answer questions with thoughts or feelings instead of conditioned auto-response (which is always “yes”) and we’re really glad to see others talking about it

the only way we are able to deal in those situations is by, if we’re comfortable / safe enough with the person / able to speak, correcting and explaining what happened after we auto-yes

like “oh oops i said ‘yes’ but i’m actually kind of cold” and maybe explaining what’s happening when we can, but not necessarily giving more of an explanation than “i said yes but i meant _______.”

also saying “give me a minute” before answering can help, if you do it without apologizing and act like its just as reasonable as a non-autistic asking for the same thing.

of course this all requires finding someone who won’t yell at you just for being autistic and also being able to explain things, which are both hard.

into-the-weeds:

realsocialskills:

I have problems with reacting on time and I learned to cope with this by agreeing to everything. Someone asks if they can open a window, I automatically say “yes” because analyzing the situation in my mind takes a long time (they can but - I’m cold - I’d prefer if they didn’t - figuring out how to say it). People get impatient and repeat the question before I have the answer or assume I’m rude. Any ideas how to deal with being slow?
realsocialskills said:
That’s a tough problem. I don’t think there’s a simple or universal solution.
One thing I’ve found helpful is telling people I’m close to that I have this kind of problem, and asking them to ask questions differently. For instance “I’d like to open the window. Would that be ok, or do you want it to stay closed?” is easier for me to give a real answer to than “Can I open the window?”
Another thing is that sometimes I can buy time by repeating part of the question. This can also prompt them to clarify. For instance:
  • Them: Can I open a window?
  • Me: You want to open a window?
  • Them: Yes, I’m hot.
  • Me: I’m cold. Could you take off your jacket instead?

That way it breaks down into smaller steps, like this:

  1. I hear their question
  2. I process what the question is and verify that I’m right
  3. I figure out what I think and maybe say so

It can also sometime work even if I can’t say very many words right then. For instance:

  • Them: Can I open a window?
  • Me: A window?
  • Them: I’m hot.
  • Me: Too cold.
  • Them: You’ll be too cold?
  • Me: Other room?
  • Them: Ok, I can try working in the other room with one of those windows open.

This doesn’t always work, but it does sometimes.

What works for y’all in this situation?

into-the-weeds said:

Sometimes these tricks work more for me, but sometimes I need a lot more time (like, I don’t think I could accurately answer the window question in a practical length of time.) Communicating in writing or another text-based form can help. But ultimately the only viable work-around for this I’ve found is to form relationships where the other person understands that this is a thing, and is okay with me saying “yes” and then half an hour later saying “wait, I should have said [other thing,] can we [something else]?”

Which obviously does not work for everyone!

So, lots of sympathy, anon, and I’m going to be watching the notes on this one for ideas. This has had a pretty big impact on my life.

Is it ok to stop being friends with someone because the steps necessary to ensure their consent stress you out to the point of making you miserable? On one hand, that seems like a shitty thing to do to someone you otherwise like. On the other hand, trying to figure out what this person wants to do or wants me to do sometimes stresses me out to the point that I actually end up cutting myself to calm down. I don’t know what the right thing to do is anymore.
realsocialskills said:
Yes, it’s ok. Because your consent also matters. You do not have to spend time with people who make you miserable, even if it’s not their fault that they make you miserable.
That said, sometimes people who are far too stressful to interact with regularly are great if you limit it some.
Are there boundaries that you could draw that would make interacting with them enjoyable again?
Like, maybe only seeing them occasionally? Maybe only at activities they suggest? Maybe only online?

Question for y'all: dementia

I don’t know very much about interacting with people with dementia, and I’m hoping that some of y'all do.

Here are things I know:

  • Folks with dementia are still people
  • They are also still adults; dementia doesn’t make someone into a little child
  • Their preferences matter
  • Their consent matters

The problem is that standard verbal methods of assessing consent are often not effective with people with dementia:

  • Some people can’t answer open-ended questions
  • Some people can’t answer yes-or-no questions, or can only do so some of the time
  • Some people vocalize in ways that may or may not be intended as words
  • Some people repeat words over and over in ways that may or may not be intended as communication
  • Some people have very limited voluntary movement and expressive body language

Also, communicating with people with dementia can be harder than communicating with people with developmental disabilities that affect communication. This is because people with dementia don’t usually have a lifetime of experience being disabled and compensating for disability. 

I’m not sure how to assess consent in people with dementia when my usual strategies for getting an unambiguous yes or no don’t work. I’m also not sure what my defaults should be, or what guesses I should be making about what people might want.

Do any of y'all know things about treating people with dementia right?

For people who like to hug (guest post)

a guest post from Stephani-d:

I’m a hugger, and I regularly come across people who don’t like hugging, or don’t like hugging someone they just met, or any of a multitude of reasons that mean ‘they don’t want to hug me right now’. 

What I do is instead of just hugging people (including people I know) I just sort of hold my arms up and ask “Hug?” (I need to figure out how to ask in a way that 'no’ is an option…) 

Sometimes people hug me, sometimes they don’t. One time my friend had hurt her upper arm and could only hug specific ways.

If someone doesn’t want to hug, I don’t want them to feel left out, so I offer a high-five. 
If they don’t want a high-five, I offer a fist bump. 
One of my friends is really uncomfortable with touching people, so instead we just touch pointer finger fingertips. 
If someone just plain doesn’t want to touch, then I wave at them. 

This has seemed to work for me so far. 

 

Don't trick people into talking to you

If you say hurtful things to someone on the Internet and hurt them enough that they block you, try and fail to gain their forgiveness because they barely know you and have problems with toxic people, and then adopt a new username, start following them again and interact with them again without hurting them, are you being dishonest and a bad person?
realsocialskills said:
I think it’s better not to frame this as a way of deciding what kind of person you are. The point isn’t to figure out whether this makes you a bad/dishonest person. The point is to figure out whether it’s a bad thing to do.
In this case, I do think it’s bad to make a new persona to interact with someone who has blocked you. It’s not ok to trick someone into interacting with you against their will.
It’s also not ok to decide that someone you hurt isn’t forgiving you because “they barely know you and have problems with toxic people” and that this means that it’s somehow ok for you to ignore their decision not to forgive you. That’s not your decision to make.
Neither being sorry, nor meaning well, nor apologizing, nor being a good person mean that you are entitled to have someone forgive you and agree to continue a relationship. 
People have the right say no to forms of interaction that you want with them, even if their reasons are bad or based on misconceptions about you.
You also don’t know if you’re hurting them in your new persona. The fact that they haven’t blocked you in the new persona doesn’t mean that everything is ok. It just means that they haven’t blocked you. The one thing you do know is that they’re not interacting with you willingly and that you’re tricking them into doing something they don’t want to do.
The internet is full of people willing to interact with you. Leave the people who aren’t willing alone.

after a recent serious incident in my social circle I’ve gotten more proactive abt calling out minor consent issues b4 they escalate. I’ve noticed treating it like something rly obvious is quite effective - ppl take “u broke a social code” much better than “ur a predator”. but the more out-there the touch is, the easier that is. eg I recently had cause to go “you know it’s rude to lick people without asking, right?” which worked cos most ppl, y'know, don’t randomly lick ppl. still working onthis
realsocialskills said:
Have you found that this works better than saying “I don’t like being licked?”

16 ways to talk about consent

kinkykinkshamer:

1. “Do you like when I…?”
2. “I like when you…”
3. “Will you…?”
4. “How does this feel?”
5. “Do you want me to…?”
6. “Do you want to…?”
7. “Is there anything you want to try?”
8. “Show me what you like.”
9. “Do you want to go further?”
10. “Do you want to stop?”
11. “Can I…?”
12. “Does this feel good?”
13. “Are you happy?”
14. “Are you comfortable?”
15. “Are you having a good time?”
16. “Is this good for you?”

realsocialskills said:

These are good phrases. I think the original posted was talking specifically about sexual consent, but many of these are useful phrases in other types of situations as well.

Social skill: Noticing a consent problem

holmesianhatter:

vdsdisc:

amydentata:

josiahd:

pepperpatrol:

realsocialskills:

I’m not entirely sure how to describe this, but I know it’s a thing, and I know a *little* about how to deal with it:

Some people have been systemically taught that they are absolutely never allowed to say no to anything. That their boundaries don’t matter, and that they’re not really people.

For this reason, some things you’d normally do in order to establish consent and find out someone’s preferences don’t work *at all*.

For instance, asking “do you want to eat a sandwich?” is a totally useless question when you’re asking someone who’s been taught to interpret this as a command. Which a lot of people have been, because they’re in the power of people who don’t want to perceive themselves as having power over others. So they use lots of things that *look* like questions and polite requests, but aren’t.

And people get really, really good at correcting identifying orders and giving every outward appearance of consent. Because that dynamic punishes everything else.

So you have to do it differently. You have to make more guesses (not the right word, but don’t know a better one). And you also have to ask questions differently. You have to ask in a way that *doesn’t* suggest an answer. And you have to remind people that saying no is possible. For instance “Do you want to watch TV now, or do something else?” is better than “do you want to watch TV now?”, but still probably not good enough. 

But you have to notice this. And take it into account when you interact with people. I know some of my followers on here know more about how to do this than I do — comments anyone?

pepperpatrol said:

I still do this even years after getting away from people who did stuff like that. :x

josiahd said:

It’s hard hard hard to unlearn that. When learning how to be that compliant is survival, and when you have a lot of experience getting really good at it, and you’re so good at it that it becomes automatic — even *noticing* that you’ve done it can be damn hard. Hard hard hard.

And it’s upon everyone who interacts with people who have learned this anti-skill to make it possible for them not to use it in their interactions with you.

And it’s hard to do that, and not something our culture really values, and I want to think a lot more about how to do that right.

amydentata said:

Consent is more complicated than asking first.

vdsdisc said:

I had a short-lived friendship that died because of this sort of miscommunication. :( We didn’t even try to do anything more complicated than hang out together, but when I would ask a question too opened-ended to contain the answer, she would get confused and upset and then I would get frustrated and upset and communication broke down completely.

The worst was, “Oh, what kind of food would you like to get before the movie?”

We talked ourselves in circles for ten minutes while she tried to determine my preferences so she wouldn’t fuck up and I would say I liked a thing and suggest a place and ask her if she would like to eat there. She would confusedly say yes(?) but using all the vocal markers and body language that I code as ‘not really, but I will’, so I would suggest a new place and the process would repeat, only with increasing confusion as I seemingly flipped through preferences and gave her different ‘orders’ she must agree with while she refused to state any preferences at all in case I got mad at her for them. I felt like I was taking advantage of her willingness to do stuff she didn’t want to do and couldn’t figure out what she did want to do.

Disaster. Sheer disaster.

I honestly don’t know how to communicate that there is no wrong answer and you can say no beyond adding, ‘there is no wrong answer’ or ‘you can say no’. (Which I have started to do, because it really is easier to just be blunt sometimes.)

holmesianhatter said:

I would like to chime in on this. I am an English teacher for Chinese students and I have to practically beat it into my students that it is ok to say no. In this society, when someone asks you to do something for them, you are basically expected to do it and that translates to classroom behavior. I ask them if they understand and they all say “Yes!” Then I ask a question about whatever I am teaching and they all look at me like they have no idea what I just said (which does happen sometimes). I have drilled it into them, by saying every single class period “it’s ok to say no.”,and “If you don’t understand something, I want you to yell “NO” at me!” (then we practice yelling “NO” so they can get used to it). I have also introduced “maybe”, “a little” and “kind of” into their vocabulary so that when I ask “do you understand” and only one or two people say “yes”, I can say “a little?” and then the rest will agree and say rather enthusiastically “a little!” 

I bring this up because those who are taught that they can’t say no have SUCH a hard time saying no that it’s generally a great idea to give them a way of disagreeing without actually saying “no.” You can sit down and have a chat with them explaining that you realize what the problem is and you don’t want to cause them any undue stress. You can both agree on a “maybe” term that can be used that means, basically, “no” but won’t freak them out. Also, telling them “it’s ok to say no” is a great thing to do, even though it seems rather redundant and boring and almost childish, the constant reassurance that it’s ok can be beneficial for helping the person who has been trained not to disagree. So PLEASE, tell them repeatedly that it’s ok to stick up for what they want and what they like. And if they don’t know what they like, take them to a food court of a mall (or other such place that could ensure a mass exposure to things they could like) and have a field day trying every type of food. Encourage them. It will be super difficult and rather stressful for them and they will pick up if you’re stressed out too, which will make them feel worse. So, remember to be patient (as patient as you can be, we all get annoyed at times but don’t take it out on them).

tl:dr TELL THEM IT’S OK TO SAY NO TO YOU.

danialexis:

Social skill: Noticing a consent problem

randomproxy:

fibrodeathmatch:

shiraglassman:

realsocialskills:

I’m not entirely sure how to describe this, but I know it’s a thing, and I know a *little* about how to deal with it:

Some people have been systemically taught that they are absolutely never allowed to say no…

danialexis said:

I often find myself trapped between two impossible options with this one.

On the one hand, I’m not only autistic but was raised to believe that asserting myself was a cardinal sin, and that the only morally acceptable behavior was self-abnegation - to, basically, have no opinions or preferences that could conflict with anyone else’s and therefore make the other person uncomfortable.  So when I’m asked something like “Do you want sandwiches for dinner?”, I interpret that as the speaker saying “I want sandwiches for dinner,” and all my life programming about “proper” behavior tells me to want what they want.

This drives my husband batty.  So he’s been responding to it not only by not asking me a question that suggests an answer, but by asking the most open-ended question he can think of.  Like “What should we have for dinner?”  Since this is the opposite of the question-that-suggests-its-answer, it should solve the problem, right?

Except it doesn’t.  Because not only does *this* question give me the “I have to make a choice for other people” anxiety that randomproxy describes, it's too open-ended to answer.  To know what we should have for dinner, I need to know things like what ingredients we have, who will be eating, about what time dinner needs to be served to accommodate all of those people, whether the necessary cookware is clean (which in my house is a crapshoot), etc.  It is an unanswerable question, and I will literally go without eating at all rather than try to unravel it.  I need concrete options.

Often, what works best for me is to be asked a question with multiple concrete options.  "Do you want sandwiches for dinner or something else?“ is better than both "Do you want sandwiches for dinner?” or “What should we have for dinner?”, but “Do you want sandwiches, chicken, or to go out?” is better still.

Also, in some cases, the underlying premise should not be assumed, but openly questioned.  I let my husband assume the answer to “Do you want dinner at all?” is “yes,” because I have executive function problems related to eating and if we don’t proceed as if I want to eat, I won’t eat.  

But questions like “Do you want to watch TV or play a board game?” assume that I want to interact with other human beings in some capacity.  That should be asked, not assumed.  When the underlying assumption is presented as an option (“Do you want to hang out with us or be alone for a while?”), it helps me realize that I do have a choice, that my choice matters, and that it will be respected no matter which I choose.  Phrasing is crucial here - “do you want to hang out with us or be alone for a while?” presumes that both are equally acceptable choices; “do you want to hang out with us or not?” presumes that only the first is valid.

When your right to say no is entirely hypothetical

Some scary controlling people will tell you over and over how important consent is to them. They will tell you that they want to respect your boundaries, and that if anything makes you uncomfortable, they will stop. They will say this over and over, apparently sincerely.

Until you actually say no.

And then, suddenly, they create a reason that it wasn’t ok, after all, and that you’re going to do what they wanted anyway.

They will tell you that it *would* be ok to say no, and that of course they’d respect it, but you said it wrong. And that you have to understand that it hurts them when you say it that way. (And that you should make it better by doing what they wanted).

Or they will tell you that of course they don’t want to do anything that makes you uncomfortable, but you said yes before. And that this means that either it’s really ok with you, or that you don’t trust them anymore. And that you have to understand that it hurts when you withdraw trust like that (and that you should make it better by doing what they wanted.)

Or that they have a headache. Or that they just can’t deal with it right now. That maybe when they feel better or aren’t tired or grumpy or had a better day it will be ok to say no. (And that meanwhile, you should fix things by doing what they wanted).

Or that by saying no, you’re accusing them of being an awful person. And that they’d never do anything to hurt you, so why are you making accusations like that? (And, implicitly, that you should fix it by doing what they wanted.)

If this kind of thing happens every time you say no, things are really wrong. 

No isn’t a theoretical construct. In mutually respectful relationships, people say no to each other often, and it’s not a big deal.

re: ‘I’m not being abusive!’ – I’m concerned I’ve done this in the past because I grew up around someone very verbally/emotionally abusive and am trying to work through those behaviors. I feel like I flag myself sometimes that way to check in with others, but get the feeling this is a really bad way of dealing with things. Any advice on what I can do in these situations when I’m very worried I *am* being abusive and want help to stop?
I think there’s a couple of things:
First of all, recognize the difference between asking for feedback and asking for reassurance:
  • Trying to find out whether something is wrong is one thing.
  • Trying to get someone to reassure you that nothing is wrong is a different thing.
  • It’s important to be open to the possibility that something is actually wrong.
  • If you’re not open to that possibility, then don’t ask.
  • Because pressuring someone to tell you that everything is ok makes things worse
  • Work on learning how to be open to the possibility that things are wrong
  • And ask in a way that makes it clear you actually want to know.
  • Eg, don’t say things like this: “You’d tell me if something was wrong, right?” “Nothing’s wrong, is it?”
  • Things like this are better: “I feel like something might be bothering you. Is something wrong?”, “Did I mess something up? I feel like I might have.”

Don’t rely too much on people you might be hurting to teach you how to act right:

  • It’s important to listen
  • But it’s also important not to make them responsible for your actions
  • You are responsible for learning how to treat people well. People you might be hurting are not responsible for teaching you how to stop.
Get outside perspective of some sort:
  • Outside perspective is important because it is a way to get feedback without putting pressure on people you might be hurting to tell you things are ok
  • It’s also an important way to protect yourself against gaslighting. People who worry that they might be abusers are particularly susceptible to gaslighting. Some gaslighters prey on this worry really aggressively.
  • It’s important to care about treating people well. It’s also important to care about protecting yourself and being treated well.
  • It’s also a way to learn things that no one involved knows
  • Outside perspective is important for other reasons I’m having trouble articulating
  • For some people, therapy is a helpful way to get outside perspective. Therapy is not for everyone, and it can be actively harmful for some people, but it works really well for people it works for
  • For some people, it helps to talk things over with friends outside the situation
  • Reading fiction and watching TV can also be helpful
  • So can reading blogs and books that are explicitly about interpersonal dynamics, although unfortunately there are not many good ones.

Any of y'all have other suggestions?

The power of maybe

Being able to say yes is important. Being able to say no is important.

Being able to say maybe is also important.

It’s usually ok not to know what you want, even if others want you to decide right away. You don’t always have to know reasons. It’s ok to just feel unsure. Feeling uncertain is an ok reason not to say yes right away.

Sometimes there’s legitimate time pressure and people do need you to make a decision right away. It’s ok to say no if you’re not sure.

And when there isn’t time pressure, it’s ok to say maybe. Even if that annoys others.

What’s some good, simple games you could play with a bunch of 14-18 years old special needs teenagers?
That depends entirely on what they like and what their needs are. I can’t really tell you good games without knowing the teenagers in question. All “special needs” tells me is that someone decided that these teenagers should be in a segregated program rather than integrated with non-disabled peers.
You should take into account the very real possibility that kids that age might not be especially interested in playing simple games. A good percentage of teenagers aren’t, and being classed as “special needs” doesn’t necessarily change that.
There are tons of websites that have suggestions for games to play with people of various ages. (Including adults. Don’t ignore suggestions meant for adults). I’d say look those up, see if there are any that seem like the folks you work with might enjoy, and try them. And then, if that doesn’t work, do something else.
But also, ask them. If they’re people who have expressive language, ask them if they know any good games, or what else they’d like to do. If not, make suggestions and see how they react. Respect their communication and preferences.
No one that age should ever have to play a game they don’t want to play.

cosmicfingertips:

realsocialskills:

apheline:

Social skills for autonomous people: boundary violations in therapy

realsocialskills:

do you know what particular boundary violations in therapy AREN’T considered unethical? because i am also studying to be a therapist and would very much like to avoid said boundary violations with future clients.
Boundary…

Assuming that just because someone is able to verbalise certain things (for example, answering questions which they have scripted) that they can verbalise what they are feeling, wanting, or needing currently. I have had therapists and others assume that it is a kind of refusal to discuss something when in fact I just didn’t have the ability to communicate it verbally.

This. I think the way therapists act is probably a major contributing reason that a lot of autistic kids cover their disabilities by pretending to be acting out on purpose.

this is one of the reasons I love the T.E.A.M. system my current therapist uses. after every session you rate your therapist on a lot of different things (“my therapist was caring and supportive. my therapist understood how i felt. they suggested useful things that i am going to try.”) on a scale of 0 to 4, and you also answer questions about how honestly you answered the other questions (“it was difficult for me to answer these questions honestly. it would be too difficult to tell my therapist if things weren’t working” that kind of thing.) I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the fact that my therapist uses this system AND just happens to be the therapist I’ve felt most comfortable with and felt most productive with, out of the six or seven or so I’ve seen over the past few years.

Wow, that sounds awesome.