learning to treat people well

Socially stigmatized people still have to respect boundaries

Here’s something I’ve seen happen among autistic folks. I think it probably happens in other groups too.

  • Someone is subjected to a lot of social violence
  • People don’t want to talk to them because they’re autistic and weird
  • People mock the idea that people like them could ever be a good friend or partner
  • They’re very lonely and isolated as a result of social violence and discrimination

Then, as they’re figuring out that social violence is bad, this leads to an entitlement mentality:

  • They think that, since discrimination is wrong, other people owe it to them to be their friends
  • or to consider dating them
  • Or not to consider things associated with their stigmatized group dealbreaking (eg: if an autistic person who doesn’t understand social cues violates boundaries a lot)
  • And they get angry at people who reject them
  • And act like they’re doing something wrong
  • And then invasively try to explain why the person they want to be friends with is wrong and really should be their friend
  • and then persists, even after the other person has clearly said no

It really doesn’t work that way, though. No one has to be your friend. No one has to date you. No means no, even when it is motivated by bigotry or misunderstanding.

And it’s a lot easier to find good friends and partners if you stop pursuing people against their will.

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?