feedback

when conferences have bad speakers

arobotstolemyuterus:

realsocialskills:

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

I suspect I may be on the autism spectrum, and when I found out that the keynote speaker at an upcoming conference is someone whose books have been extremely helpful to me, I strongly considered registering. I am not a member of the local advocacy and self-advocacy association that is hosting the conference, but I have had some contact with them in the past.

However, there is another conference speaker who is there to promote mindfulness. I looked her up online and she has no degree or similar professional credentials, just “life coach” certification and some “training” from someone from a pseudo-scientific organization.

I looked at her profile on a website and found simplistic new age victim blaming. I would like to contact the conference organizers about this to express my concerns, but I am not sure how (or even if) I should go about this.

realsocialskills said:

I’m not sure either. I’m posting this in part because I hope others have better suggestions.

It’s pretty much par for the course for conferences related to autism, disability, or self-advocacy to have at least some of this type of nonsense. There’s unfortunately a lot of pseudoscientific nonsense. (Including pseudoscientific nonsense like ABA that makes a lot of noise about being “evidence-based”.)

I think that the presence of bad speakers can’t always be dealbreaking. Most organizations who value good things enough to bring them to conferences also make a lot of mistakes and bring in bad things too. It’s hard to get access to the worthwhile stuff without being willing to tolerate some of the bad things to an extent.

There’s also a line. And it can be hard to know where to draw it. For me, one line is torture — I don’t go to conferences at which the JRC is presenting. I don’t know where you should draw lines about that kind of thing. I think it’s ok to decide that for you, speakers who promote victim-blaming ideas of mindfulness are dealbreaking. I think it’s also ok if you don’t. And that either way, commenting may be worthwhile.

If you decide that it’s not dealbreaking and that you’d like to go to the conference anyway, the way to do that might be submitting conference feedback. Most conferences solicit feedback from participants in some way. And most conferences take feedback into account at least a little.

In the immediate term, they’re probably going to keep making this kind of mistake, but I think it might be worth reaching out anyway. They might understand where you’re coming from, and they will definitely understand that a disabled person who wants to be involved is put off by their choice of speakers. It might plant seeds — especially if others also express this.

One way is to email them. There will probably be contact information on their website. (Or on the sponsoring organization’s website).

If they’re on Twitter, Twitter might be the best way to have this conversation. People generally feel more pressure to listen and respond to Twitter conversations than to emails. Also, other people can see what you say on Twitter. Which matters both because what you say might influence other people, and people who agree with you might come out of the woodwork and comment. (Which will make them see it as an concern that people have rather than an issue that one person has).

If you decide to contact them, it’s probably best to be polite and to refrain from insulting them. (Eg: Don’t say “you don’t care about disabled people” or “You’re terrible at picking speakers” or “You probably won’t listen.”) Instead, explain who you are in a way that makes it clear that you’re in their target demographic, and explain what your objections are in a way that a person who listened could understand.

It would probably be best to explain a bit what you mean by victim-blaming, because if they already understood that they probably would have selected another speaker. (Maybe along the lines of: “She implies that we can fix things by positive thinking. That’s a really hurtful thing to say to a roomful of people who experience discrimination. It makes it sound like it’s our fault.”)

Anyone else want to weigh in? What’s the best way to give feedback to conferences that make poor choices about which speakers to invite?

arobotstolemyuterus said:

Do her beliefs contradict the advocacy/self-advocacy group’s platform? 

I would send an email to the organizers of the conference offering evidence (links, screenshots, etc) of what you saw when you were researching the speaker (You can just say “I was curious about her background, so I looked her up”) and explain how, to you, that appears to go against their mission, citing specific examples and how it will likely make other conference attendees feel unsafe. 

Sadly people don’t always vet conference speakers, especially if they aren’t the keynote and she might have been invited because a member of the group saw a single presentation or something like that. They might pull her from the conference (it happens), they might tell you that they can’t do anything to cancel her right now, but they will express their concerns and make sure she sticks to certain topics and be more careful when choosing speakers in the future, or they may do nothing.

 How they respond might give you an indication as to whether you want to go to the conference. If they listen, even if they can’t cancel the speaker, it’s probably okay if you go. If they don’t, you might not want to go.

realsocialskills said:

Has anyone else tried this? How well did it work?

When conferences have bad speakers

Anonymous asked:

I suspect I may be on the autism spectrum, and when I found out that the keynote speaker at an upcoming conference is someone whose books have been extremely helpful to me, I strongly considered registering. I am not a member of the local advocacy and self-advocacy association that is hosting the conference, but I have had some contact with them in the past.

However, there is another conference speaker who is there to promote mindfulness. I looked her up online and she has no degree or similar professional credentials, just “life coach” certification and some “training” from someone from a pseudo-scientific organization.

I looked at her profile on a website and found simplistic new age victim blaming. I would like to contact the conference organizers about this to express my concerns, but I am not sure how (or even if) I should go about this.

realsocialskills said:

I’m not sure either. I’m posting this in part because I hope others have better suggestions.

It’s pretty much par for the course for conferences related to autism, disability, or self-advocacy to have at least some of this type of nonsense. There’s unfortunately a lot of pseudoscientific nonsense. (Including pseudoscientific nonsense like ABA that makes a lot of noise about being “evidence-based”.)

I think that the presence of bad speakers can’t always be dealbreaking. Most organizations who value good things enough to bring them to conferences also make a lot of mistakes and bring in bad things too. It’s hard to get access to the worthwhile stuff without being willing to tolerate some of the bad things to an extent.

There’s also a line. And it can be hard to know where to draw it. For me, one line is torture — I don’t go to conferences at which the JRC is presenting. I don’t know where you should draw lines about that kind of thing. I think it’s ok to decide that for you, speakers who promote victim-blaming ideas of mindfulness are dealbreaking. I think it’s also ok if you don’t. And that either way, commenting may be worthwhile.

If you decide that it’s not dealbreaking and that you’d like to go to the conference anyway, the way to do that might be submitting conference feedback. Most conferences solicit feedback from participants in some way. And most conferences take feedback into account at least a little.

In the immediate term, they’re probably going to keep making this kind of mistake, but I think it might be worth reaching out anyway. They might understand where you’re coming from, and they will definitely understand that a disabled person who wants to be involved is put off by their choice of speakers. It might plant seeds — especially if others also express this. 

One way is to email them. There will probably be contact information on their website. (Or on the sponsoring organization’s website).

If they’re on Twitter, Twitter might be the best way to have this conversation. People generally feel more pressure to listen and respond to Twitter conversations than to emails. Also, other people can see what you say on Twitter. Which matters both because what you say might influence other people, and people who agree with you might come out of the woodwork and comment. (Which will make them see it as an concern that people have rather than an issue that one person has). 

If you decide to contact them, it’s probably best to be polite and to refrain from insulting them. (Eg: Don’t say “you don’t care about disabled people” or “You’re terrible at picking speakers” or “You probably won’t listen.”) Instead, explain who you are in a way that makes it clear that you’re in their target demographic, and explain what your objections are in a way that a person who listened could understand. 

It would probably be best to explain a bit what you mean by victim-blaming, because if they already understood that they probably would have selected another speaker. (Maybe along the lines of: “She implies that we can fix things by positive thinking. That’s a really hurtful thing to say to a roomful of people who experience discrimination. It makes it sound like it’s our fault.”)

Anyone else want to weigh in? What’s the best way to give feedback to conferences that make poor choices about which speakers to invite?

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

xulsigae asked:

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.