My Autistic Silence Does Not Mean Agreement
Sometimes people think that because I did not say anything in response to what they said that I agree with them.
My silence does not mean agreement.
I am AuDHD - which means there is a spectacular amount of things happening in my mind and body. My silence in a conversation can happen for multiple reasons:
I’m stunned into silence. Many times, my mind can barely believe what the person is saying. It’s like something short-circuits in my brain in shock. There are no responses because I cannot believe it is even happening. For example, a previous boss once called me “baby girl.” I was so shocked that I just stared back at him. It wasn’t until I got home that my full emotional response came. I was enraged that he would call me this. It was at this point that thoughts also filled my head, like, “Would he refer to my male colleague as baby boy?” You can read more about this in my essay An Autistic Request to the Heavens: Can I Please Have the Right Things to Say at the Right Time.
I question what I heard. When my mind is in its shocked state about what it just heard, I also question if I heard the person correctly. I often experience difficulty hearing a human voice amidst the clutter of other noises. I think, “He couldn’t have possibly said that?” I wish my mind was quick enough to say, “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” However, my mind is usually lost in its own thoughts, imagining what else could have been said and questioning if it is even worth asking.
I intentionally ignore. There are some individuals in my life that routinely say insensitive and offensive things. I have tried in the past to address things with them, which usually escalates into them dramatically defending themselves or attacking me. It is not worth the time and energy. For these individuals, I do everything I can to limit my time and exposure to them. If I do have to be around them, I ignore comments and quickly try to move the conversation along.
I choose not to share my opinion. Sometimes my friends come to me for emotional support. They want to vent about a situation and get something off their chest. In these moments, I understand they are not seeking my opinion or perspective. They are seeking someone who will listen to them. I will not bring up unsolicited advice (you can see my essay The Trouble with Advice) or interrupt their flow of words to tell them my opinion.
I wait to address something. When I disagree with someone, I recognize that the person needs to be in a grounded, calm state in order to have a fruitful discussion. If someone is upset and raging about a particular topic, I know it is likely not the best time to present another point of view. I often choose to circle back at a later time with these people to talk about the issue at hand.
It comes out garbled. Sometimes I do my best to voice my opinion in the moment. I am seldom as articulate as I would like to be. In my head, my web of perspectives and supportive points make perfect sense, but it is hard to verbally articulate that in a concise manner. Furthermore, people sometimes don’t understand what I’m saying. I can tell by the looks on their faces or even a comment, “You’ve lost me.” It’s frustrating. It’s one of the reasons I write. It gives me time to say everything in a clear way.
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