How Aspie / autistic people communicate, Part 1: Why we keep talking about something

On the one hand, many Aspie/autistic people don’t talk much.  In social situations, we may “clam up” and desire to fade into the background.  But often, these same people may talk endlessly around someone we like, love, live with, or otherwise feel comfortable with.  Before we know it, we might have gone on a monologue.

In these cases, we often get accused (either good-naturedly or not) of “talking too much”.  I know I’ve heard phrases such as:

“You go on and on.”

“Just let it go” or “just let it drop already.”

“I think you’ve made your point.”

And yet, I may feel compelled to continue talking, tirelessly trying to drive the point home, without letting up.  From my perspective, something’s not right yet, something’s still missing.  I wasn’t done talking yet; I have more to say.

The other day, I got to thinking.  I thought about this scenario and wondered, why is that?

A few ideas came to me…

#1: The “monologue” topic might be a special interest.  In that case, I’m excited about the topic and I want to share.  It interests me, which brings me joy and relieves my stress; I want to share that joy and stress relief with others.  I’ve got some unusual knowledge on the subject, and I want to share or teach that information.  It’s also fascinating and exciting to me, and if it is for me, it’s tough for me to remember that it may not be so much for others.  Example (for me): human biochemistry.

#2: I might be feeling the need to rant.  This isn’t a case of ranting at someone, but rather, perhaps I’m seeking camaraderie or support.  I’m likely feeling powerless to do anything else, so the natural tendency may be to choose a safe or nearby (trusted) person and release the tension so that it doesn’t build even more.  Ranting may help relieve frustration.  I try not to bombard those around me with irritability or get too intense about it, but sometimes it helps me feel a bit less powerless, and sometimes the tension relief can take a little while.  Example (for me): rude drivers.

#3: It (the “monologue”) might be a problem–something I’m anxious about or something that’s bothering me.  This is similar to #2, but with a twist: anxiety.  In this case, I might be seeking support, reassurance, or a listening ear.  In some cases, I might be seeking the other person’s help in dealing with the issue.  If what I’m anxious about is the result of something someone else did, I need to talk with that person about it.  In every case, I’m experiencing a need to relieve the anxiety.  Example (for me): marriage finances or the occasional misunderstanding that results in complaining from clientele.

#4: It might be that I feel insignificant in some way.  This often happens when I’m trying to bring up, discuss, or resolve an issue and I don’t feel like I’m being listened to, truly heard, or taken seriously.  At that point, I begin to feel like I need to press on, hammering the point home even more until the other person “gets it” and starts responding.  If an Aspie in your life seems to go on and on, unable to drop the subject, it might be a good idea to check your responses to them…or maybe the lack/inadequacy thereof.  You may indeed be listening and possibly even agreeing with us on the inside, but if these internal responses aren’t expressed openly, I may misinterpret that as a lack of response and a lack of caring, and I may begin to feel ignored, denied, insignificant, blown off, etc.  Personally, my preferred response method/medium is verbal; I may not pick up on body language, so I may not feel like–or see that–I’m being heard and listened to.  Example (for me): any situation or conversation in which I begin to feel this way.

At any rate, we always appreciate it when people cut us a little slack.  There’s a helluva lot going on in the average Aspie’s mind, so much that even we often struggle to grasp it.  I don’t mean to dominate the conversation.

It’s not that we’re obsessed.

It’s not that we’re possessed.

We’re not “crazy”.

We’re not broken records.

We’re not anal-retentive.

For me, to go on and on about something probably results from a combination of tension (positive or negative; joy/excitement or frustration/sadness–basically, a strong emotion) + compulsion (must talk about it) + urgency (right now) + completeness (until it’s done).

I haven’t yet found a solution or strategy for what I call the Monologue Phenomenon.  Most of the people in my life are pretty understanding and forgiving, at least outwardly.  But since I’m not very adept at reading body language or facial expression, who knows what they’re really thinking?  I’m pretty sure that sometimes they’re just humoring me, letting me go on until I either get tired or realize that I’ve gone on and on and get embarrassed about it.  I would like to think that they’re genuinely interested or concerned (whichever the situation may warrant).

I think that certain strategies might work in different situations…

If I’m going on endlessly about a special interest, it might be good to just listen and try to get excited; consider how the topic might apply in your life.  Who knows what you’ll learn?  Knowledge is power.

In the case of the ranting situation, let me rant; it’ll all be over soon.  Hell, rant with me; I’ll sense the support and that’ll calm me down sooner.

In the case of #3 (something I’m anxious about): if you’re involved in the situation, help me solve it.  Take an active role in coming up with solution ideas.  This takes pressure off of me and relieves the stress and anxiety.  If not, make it clear you’re my ally, and simply lend a listening ear.  That helps ease the emotional chaos, too.

If the situation fits the last scenario, there’s a bigger issue; do your best to correct your part or clarify your position more obviously.  Tell me you understand and believe me…but only if you actually mean it.

Either way, please be gentle.  We Aspies might be the ultimate yin-yang in intensity/depth, but that doesn’t mean we’re weird or wrong.  It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve respect.  It does mean that we’re passionate.  If we’re talking to you, it means we trust you or feel safe with you in some way.  We’ve let you into the inner layers of our lives.  If you love us, do treasure that; we tend not to grant that closeness to many. 🙂





Please feel free to add your thoughts! I do my best to respond to each comment (even if it takes me a bit sometimes) :)

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