Sunday, February 16, 2014

Going on patrol

I found a great post the other day about dealing with people's boundaries and their ability to communicate them as well as discussing the necessity for patrolling our own borders.  I think about this a lot and struggle with it on a regular basis.  We all have to deal with this when we are at a friend's house and aren't sure if they want us to leave or not and it often results in people sending subtle signals to each other that are often misinterpreted.  The thing about it is there is a real clash of utopian views of the world.  The most beautiful and least realistic view is that everyone should just be extremely aware of everyone else's needs and satisfy them without any communication necessary.  You see this in relationships all the time "If you really loved me you would *know* why I am mad!" but it is just as much a problem in non romantic situations.

The competing idealistic viewpoint is that everyone should just straight out tell everyone what they feel so that we can all make the best decisions.  This is great in theory but in practice people really do appreciate a person who can figure out what they are thinking without them having to come out and say it.  Moreover there is no denying that even people who really try to explain what they want often end up saying things that weren't meant to be hurtful but are taken that way.  I think this ideal comes a lot closer to being realistic because it doesn't assume we are all psychic but as history can attest it is by no means a recipe for nirvana.

I have an unusual perspective on this both because of my social group and because of the way my brain works.  I hang around with a lot of people who find fitting in to the standard social order completely impossible at least in part because there are a lot of folks who are on the autism spectrum somewhere and find social cues impenetrable.  Many of them are aware that they miss out on subtle hints that most people get and really want everyone to just say what they want because mind reading is so difficult.  I don't find it hard to pick up on cues when I want to but I despise having to toe the line so I find the idea that we will all just magically do what is right absurd.  I have a very strong bias towards straight talk because I lean so heavily towards Thinking over Feeling (from Myers Briggs personality types).

All this leads me to being extraordinarily blunt around a lot of my friends.  I tend to just tell them "Okay, time to go home, everybody out." when it is time for them to leave my place.  I hope and believe that this is a real relief because it means that when I haven't kicked anyone out it means I genuinely want them to stay.  No guesswork required.  Wendy and I operate similarly.  We will ask each other about whether or not we are comfortable with things and we expect each other to be bluntly honest.  I remember our first Valentine's Day together and she told me straight out to buy her nothing for it.  My work mates all told me that meant I absolutely had to buy her something but I figured that if she really expected that level of mindreading then I would be well rid of her and I ignored Valentine's Day entirely.  Thankfully I was right.

This does tend to get me in trouble with the rest of the world though.  I often end up in debates with people and argue my case passionately.  I know that no matter how they argue or what they say it will not upset me as someone challenging my point of view is fun rather than a threat.  Unfortunately many people don't feel the same and I end up arguing them into a corner.  This sometimes ends up with them upset and me confused because my internal dialogue can't fathom why they wouldn't just stop debating if they can't handle it.  I have this expectation that they will say "I don't want to debate this any more" if they want to stop and all the while they are sending subconscious signals that they really want me to just pack it in and accept their argument.

Expecting other people to police the extent of my comfort zone just seems like lunacy to me.  I can't deny the appeal of a link so deep and sensitive that people can seem to be entirely one being.  When that does happen it is a marvel.  We should not get caught up in pursuing that dream though because it is a fickle and ephemeral thing, wondrous to behold but temporary as a rainbow.  For the long haul there is nothing like honesty, blunt and harsh though it may sometimes be.


  1. Great post Sky:) A neat way of explicitly talking about unspoken social expectations.

    I'm unclear whether in the last paragraph you are saying, "I'm going to strive to read people's cues better and adjust my behaviour accordingly" OR "If people want me to stop arguing (or know something generally) the only realistic thing is for them to tell me"....... or are you saying something else?

  2. What I am saying is that I love the idea of a deep connection that requires little communication but that isn't realistic. I am going to just keep on doing my thing and I will expect people to tell me what they need. That said, I will try not to ignore obvious signals, I just won't beat myself up if people get grumpy when I am not psychic.