I need to make one thing (OK, two things) very clear: the first is, I did not arrive at my Asperger’s/autism assessment lightly. I don’t think I have a cavalier bone in my body. The second point is, what follows is strictly my own opinion, at this particular point in time and space. I’m not claiming to speak for anyone else on the spectrum. The truth is, we’re all different anyway. Hell, I might be different tomorrow than I am today. (Might we all?) 🙂
Some people would disagree with my self-diagnosis, wondering how on earth I could arrive at such a claim so objectively. Actually, they aren’t wondering; they’re making a statement, punctuated with a question mark, so that they don’t have to own the accusation they’re making. Those People will get their own post, probably in the near future. But I digress…
Back on point.
One of the assessments I put myself through was the Empathy Quotient Test (link to test site).
Predictably, I scored pretty low. I’m not ashamed about that. I answered honestly and realistically. I stand by my answers, and I don’t feel any urge to justify myself.
But I found some of the questions a little strange. Not all of them, but a few did stand out to me, and I found myself composing a little mental rebuttal toward them. Today, I’ll put those rebuttals to words. In the near future, I’ll also probably write a separate post in which I put into words how I answered each question, and if applicable (and if I can verbalize my thoughts), I’ll discuss those, too, in case they help, educate, or support someone else.
(I’m issuing a Spoiler Alert beyond this point; I’ll be mentioning actual questions and discussing my answers to them, so if you haven’t taken the quiz yet and you want to do so without bias, you’ll want to back out of this page now, so that your answers are as uninfluenced as possible.)
Question: “I find it easy to put myself in somebody else’s shoes.”
My response: Disagree. For some situations, sure, no problem. For others, I can’t possibly imagine. But I also have to wonder: can anyone honsetly put themselves in anyone else’s shoes? Do I truly come up short in this area compared to others, or am I just more honest with myself than others?
Question: “When I talk to people, I tend to talk about their experiences rather than my own.”
My response: Disagree. It’s not like I monopolize the conversation entirely. (Well, OK–I might if I’m really excited or anxiety-ridden.) It’s not as if I’m not interested in other peoples’ lives; in fact, the lives of some fascinate me. I figure it depends on who has the most interesting things to talk about. Sometimes, it truly is the other person. Other times, it’s me.
Question: “When I look at a painting, I do not usually think about the technique involved in making it.”
My response: Agree. (But somebody please tell me what this question is doing on an Empathy Quotient test; shouldn’t it be on the Systemizing Quotient test?)
Question: “In a conversation, I tend to focus on my own thoughts rather than on what my listener might be thinking.”
My response: Agree. (I know, I know…not looking too good so far.) But I find it very difficult to climb into someone else’s head as it is; if I can’t even tell or anticipate what another person’s thoughts might be, how could I ever focus on them? And if I can’t focus on the other person’s thoughts, what’s left? (Mine.)
Question: “If I were buying a stereo, I would want to know about its precise technical features.”
My response: Strongly Agree. (How could anyone NOT do this??)
Question: “I often wonder what it would be like to be someone else.”
My response: Strongly Agree. (See? I’m not entirely cold and distant.) 🙂
Question: “When I read something, I always notice whether it is grammatically correct.”
My response: Strongly Agree. More than I would like. In fact, I can’t ignore it. (Unless, of course, I’m the one doing the typing; then, all the typos escape my vision and release themselves into cyberspace for all to see.)
Question: “Friends usually talk to me about their problems as they say that I am very understanding.”
My response: Strongly Agree. My innermost circle might only encompass about four or five people. But they open right up and yes, I do my best to understand; much of the time, I’m successful, at least with those select few people.
Question: “I make it a point of listening to the news each morning.”
My response: Strongly Disagree. I’m pretty sure this is a surefire recipe for losing one’s mind. I definitely don’t want to start my day out with that.
Question: “People often tell me that I went too far in driving my point home in a discussion.”
My response: Agree. After all, when you frequently feel like you’re not being taken seriously, and especially if this is a chronic feeling, then what other strategy is there? It almost seems like one of desperation, rather than a lack of empathy.
Question: “I can easily work out what another person might want to talk about.”
My response: Disagree. I think I have yet to find anyone who can easily work out what someone else wants to talk about, at least on a general basis. If I know that one of my friends or close family members is going through a tough time, then it doesn’t take much synaptic activity on my part to know that they might want to vent a little, or bounce an idea off of me for a third-party opinion. But if it’s someone I don’t know well, or I don’t know what’s been happening in their lives recently, then no, I don’t think I’m psychic that way. 🙂
Question: “I am able to make decisions without being influenced by people’s feelings.”
My response: Agree. For the most part, that’s true. I don’t want to steamroll over peoples’ feelings or hurt them in any way. But I do believe (and this is strictly my own opinion) that some people forget to put their Big-Boy/Girl Panties on in the morning; those people fail to pick their battles wisely and they end up offended at the world and miserable as a result. I’m not aware of any geographic region in which its citizens have a right not to be offended. I can’t possibly consider how each and every person might respond to something I say or do, and eventually I have to draw the line somewhere and make a move; otherwise, I’ll live a mute and stagnant life, saying and doing nothing. We’re all adults, and we all have choices. We all make choices daily; let’s all respect each others’. Living in fear due to having to tread too carefully is not living at all.
Question: “If I see a stranger in a group, I think that it is up to them to make an effort to join in.”
My response: Agree (I think). I won’t purposefully exclude anyone or shut them out (unless they’ve been rude or snotty in some way). And if they’ve actually joined the group and it’s my turn to talk, I certainly won’t act like they don’t exist.
But they have to take some ownership, too; they can’t just sit there (unless that’s truly what they want to do, and then I absolutely respect that). Again, we’re all adults; if it’s my turn to talk, I might ask them something like, “what do you think, Jane?” Hopefully, they’ll feel included enough to join in. But then, the baton is passed to them, and they have to run with it.
Question: “I don’t consciously work out the rules of social situations.”
My response: Agree (generally). In a majority of social situations, the “rules” don’t make any sense to me. Many social “rules” are holdovers from previous generations and are no longer applicable, or they’re pointless and time-/energy-consuming. My brain bucks up against them, demanding to know, “what’s the point?”
Thus, when it’s important for me to make an effort, I follow the rules I know, as long as they don’t completely irk me, seem too ridiculous to me, or run too contrary to my comfort zone; if they begin to do so, then I try to excuse myself from that situation as quickly as I can.
Question: “When I’m in a plane, I do not think about the aerodynamics.”
My response: Disagree. Actually, that’s exactly something that I think about. But what is this doing in an Empathy-related quiz? Does thinking about things like that somehow change my ability to be empathetic? Does it make me more or less so? Couldn’t I be both interested in aerodynamics and chock-full of empathy at the same time?
Question: “I would never break a law, no matter how minor.”
My response: Disagree. I’m not sure I know–or have seen–a single person who would be able to answer this question in agreement.
Question: “When I’m in a restaurant, I often have a hard time deciding what to order.”
My response: Agree. But it does depend on the restaurant and the kind of food they have. At some restaurants, I know right away; at others, I actually narrow my choices down to two or three and then have my partner–or even the server staff–surprise me.
Question: “Before making a decision I always weigh up the pros and cons.”
My response: Strongly Agree. Somebody please, please tell me that there isn’t anyone who would actually answer “Disagree” to this question! I mean, who wouldn’t do this, and if there is such a person out there, I shudder to think (compassionately) what their life might be like! But anyway…wasn’t this an Empathy quiz…?
Question: “If I were buying a computer, I would want to know exact details about its hard drive capacity and processor speed.”
My response: Strongly Agree. (Again, who wouldn’t do this? Don’t people want to know what they’re buying? And wait a minute–I thought this was an Empathy quiz…)
Question: “I am very blunt, which some people take to be rudeness, even though this is unintentional.”
My response: Agree. (See Big-Person Panties editorial above.) I find–and apparently I’m not alone, because there are memes on this subject–that the people who take the most issues with words or actions tend to be those with the greatest unresolved personal/internal issues themselves. How we react to others is a reflection on ourselves. I like to live and let live, and I’m always appreciative when others do the same. I’m not a fan of assumptions, attacks, criticisms, or butthurt-ness, especially if one is simply expressing their own opinion. Respectful debate or rebuttal against an opinion rooted in inaccurate information is much more mature and cerebral.
Question: “If anyone asked me if I liked their haircut, I would reply truthfully, even if I didn’t like it.”
My response: Agree, although if I didn’t like the haircut, I would do it gently. I try to practice a “sandwich method” of sorts: find an attribute or two that you like (if you can), and sandwich constructive criticism in between the compliments, in sort of an A-B-A structure of [compliment] – [criticism] – [compliment]. Example: “I love the color. It’s a little short in the back and it might make your face look a bit long. But it really sets off the shirt you’re wearing.”
Now, I might get tarred and feathered for daring to say anything less-than-wholly-positive. But hey–I didn’t just blurt out the information; they asked me. If you want the honest truth, ask me; if you want empty praise and fluff, ask that drama-loving neighbor who gushes about everything…
(Really? Answering truthfully will lose you points on empathy? I do find that strange.)
Question: “If there was a problem with the electrical wiring in my home, I’d be able to fix it myself.”
My answer: …. (I’m convinced these folks are a little confused on the definition of “empathy”. Here–I’ve included it below.)
1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2 : the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
I’m trying to figure out exactly what this test is trying to measure. Some questions truly do fit the empathy goal. But at least one-third of the questions didn’t seem to be related to empathy in any way.
Does it truly matter if I can or can’t remember my dreams? (I’ve experienced both, and frequently.)
If I’m a big Systemizer, does my systemizing somehow reduce my ability to empathize?
If I can wield my own tools and fix something myself, does that render me incapable of putting myself in someone else’s shoes?
If a friend is asking my honest opinion, what’s worse: Option “A” – my lying to her because it’s easier and more comfortable to do so, telling her I love what’s actually a hideous haircut, or Option “B” – my being honest with her, and taking a big risk for (what I perceive to be) her benefit?
Am I supposed to endlessly coddle an overly-sensitive (read: entitled) world who never got told “No” as a child and thus thinks they should have their way all the time as adults, and if I disagree with coddling those folks, does that make me a meanie-butt?
I would also like to know–when I’ve gone my entire life being second-guessed, doubted, wrongfully-accused, and wrongfully-assumed, what other (effective) strategy might I employ when attempting to be heard and truly listened to? Sometimes, driving the point home a little further than even I would like, is necessary.
But with that, my point has been made.
I shall drive it no further (Lol) 🙂
(PS: What I believe I have/experience is a different kind of empathy.
I’ll give I gave that topic its own post. 🙂 )