- Be specific. Tell them exactly what they did wrong, why it was wrong, and what they ought to have done.
- Tell them what would solve the problem.
- Don’t use obscene or personally insulting remarks. For instance, it’s usually inadvisable to say things like “Are you fucking kidding me?” or “Doing that is effectively giving me the finger”. It’s better to say things like “When you do that, it makes it impossible for me and others to participate. That’s not ok”.
- Don’t talk about your feelings and don’t allow the person you’re telling off to turn it into a discussion about your feelings. Making it about feelings causes a power shift, and it gives the person an opening to make it a personal or therapeutic encounter. This is not the time to talk about feelings or use I-statements; it’s the time to talk about the specific thing that person is doing and why it’s a problem.
- If you’re able to make eye contact, it’s useful to do so in this situation. Not making eye contact in this situation is likely to be perceived as you being ashamed, intimidated, or submissive. Making eye contact is likely to be perceived as you being willing to stand your ground.
- This is not about consensual interaction. You don’t need someone’s permission to say no, or to tell them that they are hurting you. (It can be hard to learn to understand the differences between these situations, but it’s really important to be aware that they both exist)
stephani-d asked realsocialskills: 2012-11-16 21:54
Some of my friends and relatives have this thing where their brain goes at a different speed than their mouth a lot of the time, and if I see that they’re getting frustrated trying to tell me something, I suggest that they take a breath and think about how to say what they want to tell me. Is this ok? I try to be patient and let them know I’m paying attention to them, this doesn’t happen a lot, I just don’t want my friends to think I’m degrading them or something.
I don’t know for sure without knowing more about the situation, how they see it, and the tone you’re using, but I think it is probably a bad idea.
Some people can’t reliably process things fast enough to have conversations they understand at a socially normative speed. These people get constantly pressured to fake normal, by damn near everyone they encounter. It’s basically just not acceptable for people to slow down and talk at a speed that’s actual communication for them.
And then there’s no winning, because if you talk at the normative speed, then you can’t speak in the normative patterns. And then people tell you to slow down; sometimes the same people who refuse to listen to you when you speak slowly. It’s constant and pervasive in a way that’s hard to understand if it hasn’t happened to you in some form.
I think probably the most helpful thing you can do in this situation is be patient. Don’t tell them to go slower; just wait for them to get there. Don’t try to correct their language or communication patterns; just be patient in a matter-of-fact way that makes it clear that you’re going to listen to them
Because being trustworthy as someone who will listen without insisting on typical speech patterns as a prerequisite can make a lot of communication possible that otherwise wouldn’t be.
You don’t have to choose between pretending to be 100% NT all the time and disclosing your diagnosis. You don’t have to choose between never asking for accommodations in informal situations and disclosing your precise diagnosis. Here are some things you can say.
- “I’m bad with faces” (as opposed to “I have prosopagnosia, also called face-blindness, which involves a neurological deficit in…”)
- “I have sensitive hearing” (as opposed to “I have auditory processing issues which present as a sawtooth audiogram, meaning that I’m more sensitive to certain frequencies than others, causing problems with tolerating loud noises and with understanding auditory information”)
- “Sometimes, I’m tactless, so tell me if I accidentally say something offensive so I know not to do it again” (as opposed to “I have an autism spectrum disorder”)
- “I don’t want to eat that food right now” (as opposed to “I have tactile sensitivities which make eating certain foods difficult”)
- “I think better when I fidget” (as opposed to “I have stims and symptoms of ADHD because of my ASD”)
That’s all they need to know. Don’t bother to disclose everything to people if you don’t want or need to. Of course, don’t hesitate to disclose if you truly need to or if you feel it’s important that this person know.
Lol — maybe something’s wrong with me because I typically choose the options in parenthesis. But yeah — I guess it’s true that sometimes giving all that information isn’t expedient and can actually cause more confusion than when I’m trying to “educate the world” about being autistic.
Nothing wrong with educating the world if that’s what you want to do. The problem is when people think they *have* to do that as a prerequisite for getting accommodations.
Hi. I was wondering if you could make a post regarding parents and specifically, strategies for coping with them. [Parents who don’t acknowledge autism/insert other as legitimate.]
Short answer: it depends. Families are really complicated, and it depends on what the relationships actually are. There isn’t much I can say that is generally true for all children and families.
That said, here are a couple of principles that work for some people:
Some people are never going to accept that you’re autistic, and are never going to understand what that means. For some people, that word is just too loaded, and too unacceptable.
Some of these same people will do what you need, if it’s framed the right way. Sometimes it helps to *not* talk about autism and *not* give any principled explanations, but rather to say things that are more like “I don’t understand. Send me an email and I’ll reply”. or “That restaurant is too loud for me."
That can work better than things that are more like "I have trouble with loud noises because I am autistic and we often have trouble processing intense sensory input”. Because actually, they don’t *need* to understand or agree with your explanation of what’s going on in order to do right by you. They just have to do what you need in order to interact.
And I’d say also that – first and foremost, learn to say no and make it stick. Asserting boundaries makes a lot of things better, and the more you can establish that you are in control of your life, the better off you’ll be. In some circumstances, your ability to do this can be very limited because of danger – but in just about *all* situations, people will try to convince you that you have less power than you really do. Being mindful of your autonomy and preserving it helps.
Also – one thing that can happen is that people feel like they need permission of families/parents/whoever to think of themselves as autistic/whatever and to seek out help. And, while you might need their assistance for certain things, and while they might have the power to prevent you from doing certain things – you *don’t* need their permission to try to understand the world, understand how your mind and body work, get help, and make your life better. Don’t make their acceptance a prerequisite for doing these things.
Sometimes well-meaning people correct the language of people because they think it’s offensive, but end up doing something objectionable in the process because something is going on that they don’t understand.
For instance, people will often correct “autistic” to “people with autism”, because they’ve been taught that it’s more respectful, even when it’s an autistic person describing themself.
This also happens to people who prefer “queer” to describe their sexual orientation.
And lots of other groups.
So here’s some guidelines.
Pay more attention to what someone is saying than what words they choose to express it in. Words matter, but content matters more.
If in doubt, do not correct someone’s language.
Do not correct someone’s language when they are describing themself or a group they are part of, unless they are using a slur for a different group to be self-denigrating.
For instance, if someone who doesn’t have an intellectual disability describes themself as retarded because they feel stupid or unworthy that day, it’s ok to say that’s offensive and bad.
If someone who *does* have an intellectual disability describes themself as retarded rather than some other word you’ve been taught is more appropriate, do not correct them and tell them to use a different word. That’s their business and not yours. And aggressively paying attention to language rather than content is not respectful of the person you are talking to or the group they are part of.
If you do that, it means that you’re saying you’re only willing to listen to members of a marginalized group if they use language you approve of. That’s the opposite of respect.
And generally speaking, do not insist that someone use precisely correct language as a precondition for listening to them. Words matter, but content matters more than words. Respect matters more than words. They are not the same thing. Someone can use all the right words and still say horribly dehumanizing and awful; someone can use bad words in respectful and humanizing ways. Make it about content first.
This is a post about boundaries.
Some of us are taught not to have them.
And we’re taught that asserting boundaries is mean, cruel, and horrible. And that if we do it, we’re being mean, cruel and horrible.
And then – at some point, we figure out that this is not ok. That we have to have and assert boundaries; that doing so is part of being a person and having a life and not getting dehumanized all the time.
And – then – the message that asserting boundaries is inherently mean and cruel hasn’t gone away, just (partly) the message that we’re not allowed to do it.
And sometimes that turns into thinking that it’s ok and necessary to be cruel to people, and that being cruel is an essential part of how we assert our humanity.
I’ve done this. A good percentage of posts on Tumblr are doing this.
And it’s hard to get past, because it’s damn hard to get good information about what is actually cruel, because people learning to assert boundaries for the first time will inevitably be accused of doing bad things to people whether or not it is true. Because that *works*, and you have to get past the point where that works…
…But it’s important to get past that point *and* still care about treating people well, *and* still care about not being cruel and sadistic.
Because it is possible to assert boundaries and resist dehumanization without dehumanizing or behaving in a cruel way towards other people. No one succeeds at this perfectly. But it should be the aim. It’s important.
In many kinds of stores that sell expensive things, sales people will try to confuse you into buying things you really don’t want to buy. This can take the form of convincing you to buy more than you intended to buy, or convincing you to buy something even though they don’t actually have what you want.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1) Sales people will often try to make you feel like you are being rude if you end the conversation unilaterally, and will only agree to end the conversation if you buy something. You don’t have to follow the rules of the conversation they are setting up. If you want to end the conversation, it should end.
If they pressure you into continuing the conversation after you’ve politely said you want it to end, they’re the ones being rude. And you should walk away or hang up. (But, don’t yell at them either. There’s a good chance it’s not actually their fault.)
2) If you don’t want to talk to a sales person in the store, you can say that you are just looking.
It can also help to wear headphones, even if you’re not actually listening to anything. Headphones make people look less approachable.
4) Any time someone tells you that there is an amazing deal but you have to decide *right now* or else it will be expensive forever, they are lying in order to pressure you into making a decision before you are ready. Real sales don’t work like that. Companies that have time-limited serious sales have them frequently; they are never a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
5) Think about what you want before you go to the store. (Maybe even write a list). Don’t buy anything that doesn’t meet the requirements you listed. If a sales person suggests something else that *seems* like a good idea, but that isn’t what you wanted, don’t make an immediate decision. They might be right, but they are highly trained at *sounding* right and you are *not* highly trained at filtering sales talk. Walking away in order to think about it makes it easier to make a good decision.
3) It might be a good idea to take someone with you when making expensive purchases. It’s harder to confuse two people at once.
6) Consider buying online from a large retail site such as Amazon.com. Amazon.com product listings usually have straightforward descriptions of the product as well as product reviews, and all of the information is available without having to be watched by another person as you would be in a store. That can make it easier in some cases to make a good decision and buy the right thing.
Sometimes, when people learn methods of communication that sometimes work for people with disabilities, they use them only to get compliance. Or to make things more peaceful and calm. And they expect that things will become easier. And some things will, but…
If you’re doing it right -- if what you’re doing is real communication – you should be hearing NO a lot more than you used to. And some things should become more complicated than they were before.
And you should be understanding and respecting NO more than you used to. The communication should sometimes, probably even often, interfere with your plans and challenge your assumptions. If your interactions almost always make things more convenient for you, what you’re doing is probably not really communication.
Even if the person you’re talking to is a little child – even two-year-old kids who don’t have disabilities are allowed to say no and make it stick sometimes. Little kids who need help communicating, need help communicating things adults *don’t* want them to say, as well as things adults *do* want them to say. It’s important for them to learn how to *decide* what to say.
And, especially – if you’re treating an adult in a way that makes it impossible for them to communicate boundaries even a two-year-old child is allowed to have, somethings is going seriously wrong. And you should be fixing it, and you should expect that fixing it will be inconvenient and lead to you having to change what you do because the person you are communicating said no, or said something unexpected.
Learning to communicate is not just a matter of learning to talk to someone; it’s also a matter of learning how to listen.
And, in pretty much every culture there is, listening to people with communication disabilities is considered optional, and learning how is considered to be a special skill gained by special people who have extra special patience for Working With People Like That. (And, it’s not even routinely expected of people whose primary job is teaching or supporting people with disabilities. It’s considered something *exceptionally good* people in such roles might take on.)
But listening to and communicating with people with disabilities isn’t optional. It’s a basic social skill that everyone needs to acquire (unless they have a disability that prevents it).
And – considering communication optional makes it harder. Acknowledging that others have the right to communicate, and that listening effectively is basic decency and not a special favor you’re doing someone, makes it a lot easier to learn how to communicate properly.
Edited to add: When I wrote this post, I did not know where “Your silence will not protect you” came from. It’s from an essay by Audre Lorde called “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action.” That essay is amazing and important, and I do not mean this post as criticism of it. I’m talking specifically about a way that quote is used to hurt people.
“Your silence will not protect you”, says the favorite quote quoted by people who want you to come out.
The thing is, silence does protect you, in some situations. Sometimes it’s the only thing that protects you. Sometimes you know you have something valuable, and you want to protect it, and you know that there are people with power over you who will beat it out of you if they ever find out about it.
Your silence will protect you, sometimes. Sometimes it’s all you have. And – don’t be ashamed of that. Do what you can to move toward a life where you won’t have to do that, if you can, if there is any way – but– in the meantime, you have to hide. And, that’s not your fault.
And don’t feel pressured into giving up the only thing that’s keeping you safe.
Find people to talk to, if you can. Even if it’s only occasionally, even if it’s only online, even if it’s only in person, even if you can’t tell them everything or even most of it. The experience of being treated as a person helps. Even if it’s incomplete. Even if it’s not enough. It helps, it does – because if you are treated as a person, it’s much easier for you to believe it yourself. Be careful about trusting people, but not infinitely careful.
If someone who is trying to crush you sends you to a therapist, you’re probably better off lying to that therapist. You’re probably safer if you learn to pretend to be happy and grateful, and to avoid telling them anything important. Be careful. Don’t trust them unless you have an exceptionally good reason to. Even if they seem kind. Even if they seem to sympathize with your position. Abusive therapists are very, very good at faking that and misleading you. A therapist who is working for someone who wants you crushed is probably working for the purpose of crushing you, and they’re probably very skilled at manipulating you into betraying yourself.
Write, if you can. Even if you have to burn it afterwards. Writing can be like talking to yourself, and it can give you experience treating yourself like a person. That can help to preserve things that others are trying to squash.
Learn how to protect your privacy on shared computers. Learn where to find computers that people who want to hurt you don’t have access to (for instance, public libraries).
Learn to control your facial expressions, if you can. Learn to read without having an outward reaction to what you are reading, if you can. Especially, learn how to suppress laughter and expressions of anger, because when people see those, they tend to ask questions. And some people are really good at asking dangerous questions and extracting information from you that they will use to harm you.
And remind yourself that you’re a person. That you have the right to exist. That the people who want to squash you are wrong. It’s not your fault you have to hide, and that it’s to your credit that you have something *worth* hiding, and that you’re able to hold on to it in the face of abuse.
Do what you have to. Use silence, if that’s what protects you. And give yourself the respect you deserve, even when others don’t.
It’s widely believed that autistic folks have trouble detecting sarcasm and irony. This is in fact true for a lot of people.
However, something else is also true.
People lie about sarcasm and irony. Sometimes people say something they really did mean, and then after the fact claim not to have meant it.
Despite having meant it, they might say things like:
- I was just joking
- I was just being sarcastic
- I was just being ironic
- Of course I didn’t *mean* that
There are several reasons people might do this, including but not limited to:
- After the fact, they regretted what they said and want to pretend they didn’t say it (sometimes for benign reasons – people do speak without thinking and then realize that what they said is something they don’t want to have said)
- They realize that they don’t actually want to discuss that topic with you, and are trying to close the subject so they won’t have to
- They are afraid of looking stupid, and they think you consider what they said stupid, so they want you to think they don’t mean it
- They said a bigoted or otherwise messed-up thing and don’t want to take responsibility for having done so (so they pretend it was a joke in some way)
- They are intentionally messing with you and want to confuse you
So, if you’re often told that you don’t understand sarcasm/irony/humor, it might be true. But it also might mean that you *do* understand what people are saying, and that they’re falsely claiming to be sarcastic/ironic/joking when they don’t like how you react to what they say.
Some things to consider:
- Do you understand irony/humor/sarcasm some of the time, but not other times? Is there a pattern you can detect?
- Do you understand humor/irony/sarcasm about some topics, but not others? Are the topics you don’t understand irony/sarcasm/humor topics that people say obviously intentionally hurtful things to you about? (If so, it’s likely that at least some of the sarcasm you’re failing to detect actually *is* meant literally).
- Are there particular people whose irony/sarcasm/humor you consistently fail to detect, even though you understand it in others? If so, it’s worth watching carefully and examining the content to see if it’s actually irony/sarcasm/humor. It may be the case that you just find some people more confusing than others, but it’s also likely that you actually *do* understand what this person is saying and they just wish you didn’t.
Many buildings are built such that they are possible to use in a wheelchair, and then mismanaged in ways that make them completely and needlessly inaccessible. Here’s some things you can do to avoid that problem:
- If some of the entrances to your building are not flat, post signs that clearly state where the accessible entrances can be found.
- If you need to control access to your building by locking some of the entrances, make sure to keep at least one accessible entrance open. Even if this means you don’t use the fancy entrance. Being accessible is more important than being fancy.
- If some of your parking lots lead to accessible entrances, and others lead to inaccessible entrances post that information and directions to the correct parking lot *at the entrance to the parking lot*.
- If some of your entrances look accessible at first but then lead to stairs, post signs that make this clear and that direct to an actually accessible entrance. Do not make people waste their time with decoy entrances.
- Make sure the elevator is as easy to find as the stairs. (For instance: If the elevator is not next to the stairs, post signs by the stairs with directions to the elevator). Do not post signs telling people that taking the stairs is more virtuous than taking the elevator.
- If the passenger elevator is broken but there is an alternative (freight elevator, service elevator, etc) post this information with the out-of-order sign, and provide a cell phone number or other way someone who needs an elevator can contact help getting to the alternative elevator.
- If you have a website, accurately describe the accessibility of your building. If some areas aren’t accessible, or are only sort of accessible, be honest about it. That allows people to plan. Provide a phone number or email address people can use to ask accessibility questions, and make sure the person answering it knows what they are talking about and cares.
- Make sure your building maps accurately describe your building from the perspective of someone on wheels. For instance, if the pedestrian bridge linking two parts of your mall has two steps at the entrance, your map needs to say this. Likewise, if there is a step to get into the food court from one direction but not the other, the map needs to say this. Misleading maps waste a lot of time.
- Listen to what people with disabilities tell you about accessibility. If they tell you something is a problem, believe them and fix it.
Sometimes people in public places seem to need help.
And some percentage of those times, they actually do need help.
It’s good to offer help, but a lot of times people do it in a way that is invasive and unhelpful.
Here’s a way that’s good:
1) Ask if someone wants help. Some good phrases are “Would you like help?” or “Can I help you?”
2) Wait for a response. This is important, because sometimes the answer is no – and sometimes your instinct about what would help could actually hurt the person you are trying to help.
3) Listen to the answer, and help the person according to their instructions rather than your intuitions.
I have a hearing loss. For me some accents can be more difficult to understand and anything that isn’t an accent I’m used to or well-enunciated can prevent understanding. Knowing the accent helps me access models I have so I can map what I hear to the word they mean. Is there a way to ask someone about their accent without being rude or making a big deal? Is there a way to do it without bringing up my hearing loss stuff? Some people think it’s rude or attention-getting to mention disability.
And it’s especially hard in this kind of situation – people routinely claim to be unable to understand accents when what they really mean is that they can’t be bothered because they don’t really think they have to listen to foreign or disabled people.
I have the same problem with my difficulty remembering names and faces and learning to pronounce unfamiliar names. It is genuinely difficult for me – and it’s experienced as a microaggression by people who routinely deal with people who can’t be bothered to think their names and faces matter.
There is a strategy I’ve found that does often help with certain types of interactions.In my experience, people are more likely to be accommodating if I am direct and concrete about it, sympathetic to the problem my disability creates, and unapologetic about the disability itself. Approaching it this way doesn’t always work, but it does work better than anything else I’ve tried. In practice, this means I:
- Mention disability explicitly, in a tone that suggests that it’s a neutral fact of life and not something shameful
- Say explicitly that I want to do whatever it is we’re doing (but *without* saying anything along the lines of “I’m not making excuses but…” because that’s *always* interpreted as “I’m making excuses but want to be treated as though I am not”)
- Say something concrete that will make it possible for me to do whatever it is we’re doing.
- "I’d really like to read this article, but I won’t be able to follow in class with this font size. Can you give me a large print or electronic version please?“
- "I have trouble with my hands and I don’t think I’ll be able to write this out – is there a way I can do it on my computer?”
- “I don’t understand social cues very well – are you interested in this topic too, or would you rather change the subject?”
I wonder if it would help to say something like “I want to understand you, but I have a hearing loss and I’m having trouble understanding your accent. I’ve found that it sometimes helps if I know what type of accent it is – would you mind telling me where you are from?”
I’m not so familiar with hearing loss and how people react to it, so I don’t know if that would work. But it might be worth considering. Does anyone who has hearing loss or auditory processing problems have advice on this?
Something that will make most professors like you:
Email them a question about something they care about. Listen to their answer. Ask a follow-up question about it, based on something you learned from the answer.
It doesn’t have to be someone who is currently teaching you. It can be someone you *want* to teach you.
That’s usually pretty effective, because the biggest thing most academic types want is attention, and someone to listen to and understand their theories.
People from different parts of the world speak differently, even when they are speaking the same language. Accents can also arise from some disabilities and subcultures, even within the same region.
Everyone has an accent, but some people perceive themselves as not having an accent. Some people have strong reactions to other people’s accents, and end up making asses of themselves. Here’s some advice on how to avoid doing that:
The first rule of politeness with regards accents is that you ought not to comment on them. An accent is part of someone’s body. It’s rude and invasive to make personal comments about someone else’s body, because bodies are private. For instance, if you’re in a situation where it would be rude to tell a woman that her hair makes her look hot, don’t tell her she has a cute accent.
Do not offer your unsolicited opinions about the place you perceive the person to be from. For instance, do not commiserate with a person you just met about Southern bigotry based on their accent. Do not tell someone with a British accent all about how much better you think their health care system is than yours. Do not initiate a conversation about their political views about a war their country is fighting. Talk about what the conversation is actually about; treat them like a person and not as their region embodied.
Do not express skepticism about where someone is from based on the way they speak. It’s disrespectful. They know where they came from; you, as a person who just met them, are not a greater authority on this. And you won’t be the first one to have expressed this skepticism. You might not even be the first one that day. It gets old fast.
Also, some people with disabilities pass as non-disabled in order to protect themselves, but speak somewhat oddly and are perceived as having foreign accents. Questioning someone in that situation at length about why they talk like that and where they’re really from can be frightening. People who pass do it *for reasons*, because being identifiably disabled can expose people to horrifying discrimination.
Some people with more obvious disabilities, and unmistakable disability accents, get ignored because other people assume that they are impossible to understand, or that they don’t have anything worthwhile to say. Do not do this. Make the effort to listen, and you’ll probably find that it’s not so hard once you’ve stopped thinking of it as optional (unless you have a significant receptive language disability, but most people who think of disability accents as incomprehensible don’t.) Do not treat this as a favor you are doing someone. Treat it as a matter of basic respect. It is not ok to decide that a whole category of people get ignored because you can’t be bothered to listen.
People often make it impossible for others to communicate by listening to their accents and ignoring their words. Do not be that guy. Listen to content, take people seriously, and don’t fetishize accents.
There’s a phenomenon that’s been discussed recently as niceguyism. Niceguyism narrowly defined is when a man wants to date a women, and pretends to be her friend, and then gets angry and disgusted when she thinks that they are friends and does not reciprocate his interest in dating.
It’s been summed up as “treating women like vending machines into which you insert friendship and get out sex”.
I think it is actually much broader than that. First of all, although it has a gendered variant, people of all genders do this, and it’s not always for sex. Here’s what I think niceguyism is, broadly defined:
When someone unilaterally decides that they have a particular kind of close relationship with someone, and then treats the other person as though they have an obligation to act like it is true.
All close relationships require the ongoing consent of both parties. You can’t unilaterally *create* a close relationship, you can only unilaterally *offer* to enter into a relationship.
This plays out in romantic and sexual terms, where one person might unilaterally decide that they want to date someone, give that person presents or assistance, and then get furious when that person dates someone else.
It also plays out in friendships – one person decides that someone else should be their best friend, unilaterally acts like they are best friends, and then gets angry and disgusted when that person spends more time with or exchanges more confidences with other people.
It also plays out in a particular way with people with disabilities – people decide they want to be someone’s helper, or open their life up, or empower them, or give them hope to overcome their disabilities – and then proceed to run roughshod over that person’s boundaries and heap abuse and derision on them when they object.
It is never ok to decide you would like a close relationship with someone, and then unilaterally act as though you already do without regard to their consent. Don’t be that guy.
On Tumblr, email lists, comment forums, and other types of social media, it’s really easy to get bogged down in destructive conversations. People can end up spending lots and lots of time talking to people who aren’t really worth talking to, and having conversations that are draining and don’t do anyone much good.
Here are some rules that I try to observe that I think mitigate that somewhat and help me to find better conversations. They probably aren’t the right rules for everyone, but they work well for me and I think there are good reasons for that:
1) If you don’t want to talk to someone, don’t. You don’t owe strangers on the internet your attention.
2) Don’t have extended conversations with people who aren’t interested in understanding your point. (Unless you’re responding to them publicly for the sake of communicating something to your followers who *are* interested in understanding what you’re saying.)
3) Seek out people who are worth talking to and who have decent values and say interesting things. Conversations with those people are a much better use of your time than extended conversations with willfully clueless jerks.
4) Don’t be a sadist, and don’t seek revenge. It’s not good to seek out people who are wrong and lash out at them with the primary purpose of hurting them. (It’s ok to post things that hurt things, there are vital things that can’t be said without hurting anyone. What’s not ok is posting things *in order to* hurt people.)
5) Don’t post replies in order to satisfy a feeling of anger (or automatic emotional responses generally); only post in ways that express anger if you’ve thought about it and decided it’s a good idea. Anger isn’t bad, but the fallout of angry posts that haven’t been thought through properly can be.
6) If you don’t want to talk to someone, block them. Err on the side of blocking people if you think you don’t want to talk to them. There are plenty of people to talk to. Blocking someone doesn’t mean that you think they’re a terrible person and should be banned from the internet forever. It just means you don’t want to talk to them and so aren’t answering their calls.
7) Don’t try to pick a fight with someone to make them go away and stop talking to you. It’s often not effective, and it’s not necessary – you can unilaterally end the conversation if you don’t want to continue it. Trying to make them go away suggests that you think you need their permission to end the conversation, and you don’t. It’s also draining, and wastes time and energy that could be spent having actually good conversations.
Here are some examples:
As a follow-up to the last post, here are some personal questions that are particularly likely to be unwelcome and experienced as microaggressions:
- Asking someone why they have a particular religious affiliation (especially if it is a minority religion).
- Asking someone medical questions about their body.
- Asking someone why they have children, don’t have children, or have so many children (or whether their children were adopted/conceived naturally/conceived through IVF).
- Asking someone about their accent or national origins
- Asking someone questions about their hair (*especially* if you are white and they not)
- Asking someone about their eating habits
- Asking someone whether they’re gay
- Asking someone whether they’re trans, or asking personal questions about transition
- Asking someone how much money they make
- Asking someone to speak for their group without having been invited to do so (Eg: “So, what DOES the gay community think about lesbians marrying gay men?)
- Asking someone if they’ve lost weight.
If someone reacts to something you do in a way you consider unreasonable and disproportionate, consider whether it might be a microagression that person experiences all the time in invasive ways. That’s not always or (for sufficiently atypical people) usually the case, but it’s the case often enough that it’s something it’s important to consider.
Here are some indications that someone’s offense at something you did might be reasonable. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a few things I have some idea how to explain:
1) Did someone react badly to a compliment? If so, it’s likely that there is a reason for this related to microagressions. This goes *double* if the compliment was related to someone’s physical appearance. (Eg: complimenting someone on weight loss, telling someone their eyes have exotic beauty, telling someone their accent is adorable)
2) Did you say something suggesting that someone is laudably atypical of their group? For instance: “You’re autistic?! You must be so high functioning!” or “You’re so good at that, it’s hard to believe you’re a woman”, or “I was surprised at how good your English is!”
3) Were you attempting to make a joke? Is it possible that it had boundary-violating content?
In a professional context, and in many social contexts, it is considered inappropriate to make sexual jokes. Violating that rule is very often a prelude to violating other sexual boundaries, and it will be read as a sexual threat even if you have no intention of breaking other sexual rules. So if you noticed a hilarious sex joke that could be made about the circuits you’re designing, it’s probably best not to make it, and if you do and someone gets offended, it’s probably your fault (even if you meant it totally innocently).
Jokes about minority groups you are not part of are usually boundary-violating in a similar way. For instance, if you’re a man, it’s problematic to tell a joke about irrational female group behavior to a woman, because you’re in effect asking her to identify with male contempt for women. This is the case even if you heard the joke from a member of the group you’re not part of. Making fun of your own group or its situation is different from participating in mockery by outsiders.
Also, some images are loaded for members of other groups in ways that you might not know about, and they matter whether or not you intended to reference them. For instance, if you notice that it happens to be the case that a particular world figure’s name sounds like “Monkey Potato” in one of the languages you speak, pointing this out has racist connotations even if that has nothing to do with what you’re amused by.
If someone seems inexplicably offended by a joke you made, think it over and see if you used any images that might have similar problems. (For instance, if you suspect that you inadvertently used a racist symbol try googling the word you used and ‘racist’).
3) Did you ask a personal question? Is it possible that doing so violating a boundary?
When you’re asking personal questions, it’s important to make sure it’s ok to do so first. Saying something like “Can I ask you a personal question?” can be helpful, but it’s not really sufficient. If your expressive language is such that it’s possible for you to do so, try to structure your questions in a way that makes it clear that you aren’t demanding an answer. For instance “I’d like to ask you a question about your hat. Would that be ok, or would you rather not talk about it?”, then *pause* and wait for a reply before you make any move to ask the question. And then if they’ve said it’s ok, ask the question in a way that doesn’t force an answer. Having received permission to *ask* a personal question does *not* entitle you to an answer.
Also, do not use people as google. Don’t ask about something easily googleable unless you’re primarily trying to initiate a conversation with that person *and* have reason to expect they’d welcome it (for instance, if you are at a party, it’s probably ok to ask someone what their shirt means. It is not ok to stop someone in the street to ask why they are wearing a headscarf).
And, if in doubt, don’t ask.
And some things you should err *especially* heavily on the side of not asking about, because they are things that people get invasively questioned about and asked to justify multiple times a day. If you want to ask about something that might be stigmatized, don’t ask unless you have a *specific* reason to think that the question would be welcome.
Fuck a vital swear word that doesn’t have a close equivalent. In English, there are many things that can be said by using the word “fuck” that are difficult-to-impossible to say otherwise.
It can be used in a number of ways:
1) As a verb: Fucking means having certain types of sex that involve penetration. The precise definition is a bit complicated and debatable, but sex that involves penises or dildos going into vaginas or butts is definitely fucking.
Calling an act of sexual intercourse fucking is not an insult, and it doesn’t imply disapproval. Outside of a clinical setting, it is the term most people use. (In a clinical setting, it’s usually considered to be an indication of poor boundaries to call it fucking.)
The word “fucking” can also be a comparatively mild adjective. For example “these fucking apples keep falling off the tree and hitting me on the head” indicates annoyance or frustration or anger about the falling apples. It is not the same as telling the person shaking the tree and causing the apples to fall to fuck off, although it can sometimes be close. (It *does* mean the same thing if it’s uttered in connection with blaming another person. Eg “Stop shaking the tree! It’s making the fucking apples fall on my head!”.
2) When fuck takes both a subject and a direct object, it can be either a neutral way of referring to sex, or it can be a sexualized insult. For instance, “Adam fucked Steve” can mean either “Adam and Steve had sex” or “Adam betrayed/cheated/hurt Steve”.
“Adam fucked Steve over” doesn’t refer to sex; it always means betrayal.
3) Asserting boundaries.
“Fuck off” is the strongest and most forceful way to say “go away and leave me alone” in English. It means “go away, don’t bother me, I’m not going to put up with this”.
“Fuck you” means “you have done a terrible thing, I am angry with you, and I don’t want to engage”
4) “Fuck that” (or the variant “fuck <x>)” is comparatively mild, at least sometimes. It can just mean “I do not approve of this situation” or “I strongly dislike x”. It can also indicate rage. Context and tone matter. If it’s something like “fuck the patriarchy” it usually indicates disapproval but not active rage. If it’s something like “Fuck Steve”, it indicates focused contempt for a particular person.
5) Fuck as a word by itself is just an expletive, and is fairly similar to other expletives. For instance: someone who drops a can on their foot might exclaim “fuck!”.
6) “Fuck yeah” indicates emphatic *approval* of something. For instance “fuck yeah ice skating” is likely to be the title of a blog about how awesome ice skating is. It means approximately the same thing as “hell yeah”, but in a way that’s somewhat more likely to offend people.