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Why I hate small talk (As an autistic person).

Man Wearing White Top in Front of Woman Wearing Blue Long-sleeved Top

As an introverted autistic person, I was bound to hate small talk. I do not think research is needed to show that many people like me hate to engage in it. Many people seem to have small talk regularly whilst others can just about manage it. Me though? I absolutely cannot stand it and here is why…

The main issue I have with small talk is that it feels incredibly forced. People seem like they are scared or at the very least feel awkward around there being silence, so they force out this generic small talk. But I believe if you are with the right person silence can be comforting. It does not have to be a bad thing. I have never been a fan of fake people or fake conversation and it is so easy to spot. The questions are so boring and they invite dull or blunt answers: this actually makes it worse for me as the conversation is not flowing naturally, nor are either party really that interested in it. It is like trying to fill a hole but the two of you are just digging even deeper.

There must be some kind of myth around introverted people being anti-social but a lot of the time, it can be the complete opposite. Many of us are comfortable with silence and enjoy our own company. This means that we can communicate on our own terms and with people, we can genuinely connect with. There is no urgent desire to go chasing people that we do not need or connect with. It is nice to keep our circles small. This for me is incredibly rewarding, as I know I do not have to go through that small talk stage with people. I know that there are others out there that think and feel the same way as me. That is most comforting.

The whole small talk stage of any kind of friendship or relationship – even meeting a colleague for the first time can be incredibly boring. The same generic questions you hear and have to repeat every time, for example, “Where are you from?”, “What is the weather like where you’re from?”, etc. How do I know you are truly interested? Truthfully it feels like being attacked with question after question, with no authenticity or meaning behind it. It is like getting a snapshot of somebodies life without any real connection. It is so fake.

Small talk can happen so fast and as an introvert, I like time to listen and process information before I give a response. This allows my answer to be more honest and well-thought-out. How can I tell you how I am feeling when I am not sure if you care? What would happen to the conversation if I told you I was feeling upset or stressed or confused? Would it continue? I think with many people it would not, but I am not sure as I do not open up too much to just anyone. I want to feel like I can trust the person I am speaking to and that they are likely to follow up on my answer, otherwise it is just wasted, meaningless conversation – just like small talk.

Self esteem and autism

Self esteem can either be healthy or unhealthy and refers to an individuals confidence in his or hers ability or self-worth. Those with a healthy self-esteem can find it easier to believe in their worth and abilities, to assist themselves in achieving a task for example. Whereas those with a low self esteem can belittle themselves struggle to find their place or value in society. This is closely linked with autism, of where an individual may already face difficulties of low self esteem, if struggling to fit in.

Impact of self-esteem

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Concerns of low self esteem and poor mental health can lead to depression. It can also lead to some questionable friendship choices if an individual does not see their self-worth. They may not be portraying the best version of themselves and instead only receive what they put out there. For someone with autism, developing and sustaining friendships is already a great enough struggle as it is. But facing this issue too is like ‘double trouble’ where you are battling two issues.

Why have healthy self-esteem?

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It is therefore important to look after your mental health and stay clear of negative energy. You may be vulnerable and unable to pinpoint who these people are, but it is pitival to your happiness to do so. Being around supportive people is great for your confidence and self-esteem. It means people are encouraging you to chase your dreams and your development. Whereas negative people might only see the worst in you which can hinder your abiity to unearth your talents and success.

Celebrate your own achievements!

woman in green jacket raising her hands

Someone with autism may already be constantly reminded about things they struggle to do, or cannot do. The last thing we need is someone that is inpatient and unsympathetic. Knowing that someone is tolerant and understanding is more reassuring than you can ever imagine. Celebrate your progress as though it is unique to the individual. What might be nothing for someone else, could be an outstanding achievement for you. Therefore I see this as a key aspect of assessing a persons motive and energy, as your supportive friend will compliment such an achievement.

Surround yourself with positive energy

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You need people that will love and support you. It is simply not good enough to keep unwanted company just for the sake of it. Strive for better and take risks. If that means cutting someone off, then it may have to be a risk that you have to take. We aren’t always destined to be a consistent or prominent aspect of every persons lifetime. Sometimes people drift and you should not feel bad for drifting away from negative energy. You should put yourself first and be around supportive people, as they will encourage and compliment your push for better health.

Living with a hidden disability.

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Hidden disabilities are not obviously visible to the glancing eye and as a result can provide the individual with various different complications.
Hidden disabilities encompass a range of disabilities, such as chronic pain, depression, anxiety, autism and ADHD. The frustrations include wanting to be seen as an individual, but also having to accepting your differences and trying to seek the help you need.

Communicating and seeking help can be extremely difficult for someone with anxiety or autism, whom might struggle to make their point confidently or clearly enough. It is great acknowledging that you require that extra support, but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming trying to arrange it. Some people may never get diagnosed whilst those that are diagnosed, may be treated unfairly if those in charge are unaware.They might just expect you to get on with a ‘simple’ task (such as answering a question), but without truly understanding your needs, this could well be your worst nightmare.

Those with a hidden (invisible) disability may experience that sympathetic feeling less often than those with a visible disability. For instance lifts and ramps are in place for wheelchair users, as their limitations are made apparent. Whereas those who have sensory impairments may require similar support of private space, such as in avoiding noisy and uncomfortable environments. Regardless of whether or not a disability is visible or invisible, it is important never to invalidate someones feelings or troubles, as they are equally important.

But how can we as a member of society conceptualize ideas for understanding these needs?

Could we enforce more testing methods in schools to search for and unearth hidden disabilities? The child and parents may even be unaware themselves. For instance Anne Hegarty, (quiz master and former I’m A Celebrity contest) was only diagnosed with aspergers syndrome in 2005 – making her 46/47 years of age at the time. This can be a confusing and stressful time without a diagnosis, as it is too easy to misinterpret one’s behaviours and feelings. The easy yet ignorant option could be to assume that the individual is poorly behaved, but this doesn’t build rapport or help them unearth their potentially justified compications.

In my opinion, all teachers and parents must be incorporated with the skills to understand hidden disabilities and the individuals who experience them. Some are congenital whilst others are acquired, which is why it is important to be appropriately equipped early on. A child and their parent must build trust with one another through understanding, which can foster their development. No one wants to be treated unfairly in society, whereas this knowledge can be beneficial in integrating a disabled person successfsuly into society.