Do Asperger’s / autistic people always have to be right?

Strangely enough, I can’t recall having been openly, verbally accused of “always having to be right”, I’ve experienced other peoples’ nonverbal recoil in response to something I’ve said, particularly if I had been correcting them.  So, even though those people might not come out and say it, they probably think I “always need to be right”, too.

It must be a common enough phenomenon, because even my search suggestions gravitated right toward that phrase.

Although I’d been chewing on the idea for a post about this subject for a while, a neat discussion in the (awesome!!) comments section under a recent post got me thinking (thank you!) shifted my focus more acutely toward the subject.

It’s not so much what people said as how they acted.  The unexpected recoil.  The half-sarcastic “oh.  OK.  You’re right, then” or “I stand corrected”.  The subsequent cold shoulder.

It doesn’t matter that nobody has come out and asked, “why do you always have to be right?”; I know that something is amiss with their body language.  I might not read that body language completely right, but I know something’s up.  The air changes density.  The world gets a little bit crisper.  The vibes get a little shorter – more closed and less generous.

Of course, this feedback comes too late.  It’s even more confusing when I’m not sure how to read what I’m seeing.  There are plenty of gaps, and my brain will try to fill them in, often compounding an already south-headed situation.  And it’s even worse when I don’t even know what I did wrong.

I actually hadn’t been aware that they might be asking me “why do you always have to be right?” in their heads.

Because that’s not where I was going, at all.  I don’t always have to be right.  That’s not even close to the truth.  It isn’t the case.

But people will believe what they want to, and there’s no opportunity to set the record straight unless they air their thoughts.  It’s interesting to note that many people keep those thoughts to themselves in the name of courtesy, harboring them inwardly to be “polite”, when the real courtesy would have been to give me the opportunity to explain myself, soothe ruffled feathers, and clear the air.

But I digress…

The connection between peoples’ seemingly random reactions to my side of the conversation and the assumption that I have a superiority complex wasn’t fully revealed until I stumbled, quite accidentally, on some social skills information on an Asperger’s-dedicated website (this attribute, according to my searches, is almost exclusively connected with the Asperger’s classification as opposed to autism in general).

Mental light bulbs, light bulbs, everywhere.  They think I’m condescending!  They think I’m bossy.  They think I’m a right-fighter.  They think I always have to be right, always have to win.

Wait–right-…what?  What’s that?

A right-fighter is a term I’ve heard only fairly recently, and there are a few versions of the definition, the best one of which I’ve seen is:

“someone who struggles to win arguments, even if they doubt their own view. A right-fighter is someone who gets overly emotional or angry when people do not agree with them and their opinions or beliefs. A right-fighter is someone who insists on having the last word in an argument or refuses to back down no matter what” [1]

If I try pretty hard, I can bend my mind just enough to imagine why someone might say that about Asperger’s/autistic people.  The “overly emotional” part may be a little misplaced or misappropriated, but I can understand how non-autistic people might think we “insist on having the last word”.

The truth is different from what the general neurotypical population often perceives (and thus, assumes, unchecked).  And today, I’m here to set the record straight.

In general:

  • We’re not right-fighters.
  • We’re not egomaniacs.
  • We’re not know-it-alls.
  • We’re not condescending.
  • We’re not engaging in a contest.
  • We’re not trying to “win”.
  • We don’t have a superiority complex.
  • We don’t even have to be superior.
  • We’re not trying to be better than anyone else.
  • We don’t even always have to be right.
  • We don’t even need to have the last word.

The perception/assumption that we do is simply a matter of different communication styles and thinking processes getting mismatched, crisscrossed, and tangled.  We might come across as fitting these descriptions/labels, but the truth is a whole different scenario.

I’ll try to debug the situation by explaining where we’re actually coming from, and where our heads are really at, in instances where we seem to “know it all” and insist upon being right.

Here’s what really might be happening…

We’re detail-oriented.  If a detail someone mentions/quotes/states is inaccurate, our minds may get stuck on it and we might not be able to leave it alone.  To let it go as-is feels like letting it hang in the air–loose, swinging wildly in the wind, and wrong/inaccurate.  Our perfectionism often has much more to do with ourselves; we’re usually a lot tougher on ourselves than we are with anyone else.  We wouldn’t feel right with ourselves if we let it go.  Our conscience might nag at us until we’ve made the correction.

We’re probably trying to help; if we care about you, we don’t want to fail to speak up if you’re incorrect; we’d rather teach you or share with you the correct answer.  If I correct someone, it’s because I’m trying to be of some help.  I love learning, and I don’t mind teaching. 

In the neurotypical world, which is fraught with varyingly-subtle posturing, contests, and one-upmanship, the motive behind correcting and teaching is to score a point, a one-up, in the pervasive unconscious contest.  For me/us, however, the underlying motive here is usually not to impress; rather, it’s to share.  If I know something and I care about someone, then I want to share what I know with that person.  If someone has the wrong impression about something, then I want to help them grow by making sure that they have all the information possible.

I’m/we’re also usually open to new information–possibly more so than non-autistic people (in general; many exceptions can be found in both neurotypes).

In my/our day-to-day operations, logic, emotion, and gut instinct will all come into play, but if push comes to shove, logic usually trumps emotion.

This differs from what we observe in the general neurotypical world; it appears that emotion and intuition win out over logic in their battle of wills.  Behind many decisions, there is emotion involved.  As the decision or judgment call is made, emotion is attached to it, and an emotional investment is made in it.  Thus, it might be fairly difficult for the “average” person to change their mind, even after being presented with new information.  Even if that new information makes logical sense.  The sensibility of the information merely makes the “average” person more emotionally uncomfortable, as if to change one’s mind automatically criticizes them for being wrong.

(If you need convincing, simply consider the stock market.  It’s all math and numbers until someone panics, usually over the possibility of new less-business-friendly legislation or some other political shakeup or another type of instability.  The stock market will plummet as stockholders and investors slam their brakes on buying and start trying to sell off their shares like hot potatoes.  The herd has been spooked.  And, once down, it takes quite a while for the herd to calm down and resume normal regularly-scheduled programming.)

For people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, however, we’re not quite as easily spooked.  Perceiving the world in an alternative way often confers the benefit of being able to stare straight into a situation and look at it for what it really is.  We can take information as-is, without applying emotion.  We usually make a decision or judgment call based on the information, without connecting an emotion to the decision.  If we’re wrong, we’re wrong, and the internal standards to which we hold ourselves demand that we revise our opinions based on that newly-acquired information.  No harm, no foul.

The only Way that anybody truly knows is the Way of themselves, so when our default position is to operate with emotion detached from decision-making and judgment-calling, we might transfer that attribute to other people.  When non-autistic people encounter our unemotional, analytical Way of thinking, then they’re likely to be confused, and they believe we’re being condescending.  That’s understandable; after all, when other neurotypical people have acted in this way toward them, it was/is in order to get a one-up, to condescend, to score a proverbial point in the silly contest.  Since they are mind-blind, too, they don’t understand that our intentions are different, and that we’re not trying to be condescending or score points.

The truth is, if we’re correcting someone, we probably do know a lot about the subject we’re correcting them on.  It might even be a primary area of intense focus (i.e., a “special interest”) or a particular niche area of study/knowledge.  We also have kind and genuine hearts and intentions, even if we may come across differently due to nonverbal aspects, such as tone of voice, body language, word choices, and so on.  (Sometimes, when we’re trying to think and talk on the spot, “word choices” can sometimes be a misnomer in itself.)

Another potential underlying theme of “always having to be right” is that we may trying to get a piece of information right in our own minds, which may often involve saying it out loud, or maybe confirming with another person that we have it correct.  Rather than correcting someone else’s information, we might be trying to solidify that information for ourselves, and we’re actually seeking corroboration.

By our nature, we’re hardly ever condescending, right-fighting people with superiority complexes that always have to “win” a discussion.  Making such an assumption about our underlying intentions without actually seeking the truth from us directly is actually an instance of projection of a non-autistic person’s values, motives, and intentions onto us.

That’s not fair, and that’s not accurate.

So please, I encourage everyone who might feel like we “always have to be right” to stretch their minds and probe a little deeper, into us (and where we’re actually coming from), as well as themselves.

The world can be rest assured that Asperger’s/autistic people, in general, are probably one of the last groups that will challenge you to an intellectual/knowledge-based contest or try to score “points” on you in a discussion. 🙂


References:

1 – “Are You a Right-Fighter?” – from Boxing Score

***

(Image Credit: Android Jones)

 

 

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40 Comments

  1. This is another of your wonderful fact filled teaching post that we so enjoy. Have never heard the term “right fighter”. This is another article we just continue muttering wow through. Thank you for making and spending the time to share. Like we may have said before it is great seeing the world through your eyes and words.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh wow, thank you! 😊😊. What a lovely thing to say ❤️. Hehe you’ll probably chuckle – as I got to the end, before posting, I thought “oh my, this probably sounds really clunky; not exactly my most succinct post. Hope it’s not too confusing” lol (I had written it in several sittings and was concerned that it might sound disjointed lol). Your words are very encouraging! Thank you again 💞💜

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Thank you thank you! You’re totally awesome, and I really really appreciate your supportive words 😘💖💕

          Liked by 1 person

  2. The problem with the last two paragraphs is that the people they apply to probably don’t read aspie blogs. I have to add that such appeals come not just from aspies but from all sorts of disability groups, minorities, etc. The truth is that the general public is barely aware of lives that are significantly different from their own and aren’t interested in paying attention in a consistent way. And not just the general public. We are all immersed in our own worlds and our own problems. Do all aspies wake up and notice that someone with an obvious disability isn’t managing well in a public place? We do need to continue explaining, as you’ve just done, but there’s little likelihood that it will make a dent. (Still, we can hope, can’t we?)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Absolutely 😊❤️. Thank you very much for raising these excellent points! I completely agree with all you said. It’s so true that so many of these aspects can be attributed to general human nature. It’s also very true that most people (especially those who need to read this most) won’t stumble upon this information or our viewpoint. 💙

      In fact, I’ll share with you a (really embarrassing) story…

      I was one of Those People. Even though I had studied psychology and neurology (the latter heavily!) in school (and through a post-doc neurology program!), I had Zero Clue. All I knew was the manifestation pattern stereotyped by movies like Vaxxed. The approach was completely medical model in that it was purely pathology-based. They were on the “cutting edge” (or so they thought/think), in that they’d “seen breakthroughs” with “new treatments” and maybe even “miracle stories” of “autism recovery”, but oh, how far off they were!

      In fact, at this very time last year, I was perusing a medical journal called NeuroImage, to explore the topic of autism, because that’s where I was considering taking my practice next. I was oblivious to the truth, and had never thought to seek it(!) 😮

      It was actually the exploration of that journal that started tugging on me. I thought, “wait a minute….” And a few days/weeks later, I had to know. Had to. Imperative.

      Because the titles of the studies in that journal were getting eerily familiar. It was too coincidental. The phenomena I kept seeing get linked to Asperger’s/autism (either one or both) were all the “quirks” I had noticed in myself(!!).

      And almost a year later, here we are 💖💖

      (If you’re interested, some of my earliest blog posts from April/May talk about different aspects of discovery in more depth 😊💞)

      Miracles are rare, but they do happen. The miracle here is not the combat of autism in my office – it was the discovery that I am 😘💙💜🌺

      Liked by 2 people

  3. we have a fondness of things that are correct… that is not always shared.

    they dont know that some of us are extremely good at weighing more than one side of an issue, while others pick a side. you are called “fence-sitter” because of this– but even if that were fair (it isnt) it means that you would be trying to get people on one side to look at the other, and vice versa.

    in other words, youd be contradicting twice as people as if you just (arbitrarily) “took a side.”

    we look at things in detail, until people assume we only get “bogged down in details” (that can happen– to anyone. that doesnt mean it always happens, even to us.) but “you always have to be right” is a quick and easy ad hom to put down an argument that is less superficial and less one-sided than average.

    we dont absolutely have to be right… its more like we are right as a habit 🙂 (ok, this part is intended to be funny.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Amen, brother!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

      Hehe in astrology, I’m a Virgo with a Libra ascendant/rising.

      Virgo = analytical, just give me the facts. The more details, the better lol. I’ll calculate and crunch the piss out of them lol 😉

      Libra = weigh all sides of an issue, sit on the fence till it breaks. Fairness at all costs. The more justice, the better lol 💖

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I have literally been told that I always have to be right. Several times. I deny it, naturally.

    “It’s not about me being right, ” I explain. “It’s just about being right.”

    It’s that shift in emphasis that matters so much to me. Off of me and onto the concept of accuracy. Some of it is undoubtedly my latent perfectionism: it rankles when I find myself aware of an error and I feel compelled to correct it. Most people read it as me correcting them rather than their words. They take it personally, which I think is why they then aim criticism at me personally.

    And I was only trying to help.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh yes! This!! You totally made my day 😊. I love the shift in emphasis. That’s a fantastic answer! We need an Asperger’s/autism-to-Neurotypical translator 😉💞💞

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Actually not just “yes!”, but painfully so and leading to being dumped for being “competitive”, “bossy”, “controlling” and probably some other similarly damning judgements that I can’t recall.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “…’bossy’, ‘controlling’, and probably some other damning judgments…”

        Omg you too?? 💐 That was the story of my life! I was so confused. Instinctively I was just trying to ease my anxiety and/or benefit/help a situation.
        Healing happy thoughts coming your way ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I really hope you’re ok with me butting in and saying that entire power point list really is me. I make no excuses for it, don’t feel defensive about it, and have even found ways to laugh about it. I’ve written my own posts about struggling to learn how to let go of being that way so I can allow others to interact with me without feeling subdued. For anyone bristling at me responding this way, I must insert that I’m not only super aspie (GAF 60 with some narcissism), but so is my dad and so was his dad. We don’t *feel* superior, but we do feel right, and I am quite capable of arguing until everyone turns blue and collapses. My attitude was noted in middle school when a teacher laughed about it to my mom, which has always stuck with me. I even stand up for narcissism slanging on social medias because that was how (according to my psychologist) I survived the sheer cliffs of depression growing up, and he thinks (from the stories I relate of my childhood) that I’m very lucky I haven’t killed myself yet and am not drowning my sad in alcohol and other drugs or meds. But yeah, it goes back to young childhood for me. I decided and believed for many years that the human race is stupid, everyone around me are idiots, no one can use their brains for some reason, etc. As I’m aging, I am seeing that I have been quite wrong about many things, that being right isn’t the kind of important I used to think it was, and that it’s ok to stop trying to prove I’m right to anyone about anything. I know I say all this risking a bit a irk and ire from others feeling defensive, but you do need to ‘not speak for me’. Going to this much length spelling out what is really going on in ‘our’ heads is *chuckle* ‘being right’. This is exactly what I used to do, except you do it in a much nicer way. You make the same argument dressed up in nicer clothes. And honestly, I’m not trying to be right over you, I’m just saying that I do embrace that part of me who is the survivor in a world or neurodiversity trying to force me into behavioral standards, and I just don’t fit. I could never even pretend to fit. I could never truthfully and honestly have made the argument the way you’ve done here because to me it would feel like lying. My life as an autistic person is about transparency. I’m not an apologetic, and I will stand up every time for all the people who ARE arrogant and right all the time, because I recognize them as ‘my people’. This is one of my own hallmarks as #aspienado and part of the plug I’m using in Existential Aspie. I do love that your verbal accuity is better than mine, and that most of what you write is spot on. I struggled for years just to get this far and you make it look like a breeze from my point of view. Some of us are a little bit more spectrumy, need a little bit more patience, because we stick out like sore thumbs lit up with neon and we aren’t even aware of it. You are coming from the point of view where you are aware of this difference. I just need you to know that I want to stand with you, but I can’t always because I’m so picky with my wording and so terribly compulsed to psychological honesty that I can’t use generalized assumptive phrasing spread over like an umbrella. And I really do believe it is ok to be who we are. We are problem solvers, and much of the time, we are right. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Janika, I love that you have written this response. It seems very brave to me. I have been wondering a while now about the whole thing of fitting in, whether consciously or less so (as in before becoming aware that I’m autistic) and wondering why I should have to… as I have done in my earlier life, but with less understanding of what the difference was about.

      I rarely wanted to fit in with ‘them’, but more to find people like me who we would just fit without so much effort.

      Isn’t it strange how writing something that you’ve thought for a long time, lets you see it in a different way, like an aha! moment. So thank you for that opportunity.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Nope I don’t mind at all, luv! (I’m so happy to see you! 😊). I don’t think you’re butting in; and I got your dry humor too! 👏🏼👏🏼😊❤️

      Thank you so much for commenting, btw. I absolutely love what you said! Your insight and strength are awesome, an excellent example and reminder for me and anyone else in a similar boat ❤️

      Bravo, dear friend 😊👏🏼💞

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Pretty sure my really dry humor isn’t showing up at all in that last comment, but I love irony and all the ways we can twist words around. I love word gaming in other people’s heads, like a blood sport, and that’s part of the ‘win’ thing. I think I’m clever and I’m not really, just amusing myself seeing something from another angle. But as I reread my comment, I can see that’s why I’m doing. Wording is a game to me. =)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes!! Yep, I see your dry humor – and I like it 😉❤️

      Word-playing is awesome too! It’s like Tetris or Legos for me 😂💓

      Like

    1. Hehe definitely agree! I’m always like, “where’s that edit button??” You’re fine, luv; you’re among friends 😊💚💙

      Like

  7. Yet again, spot on! This refers back to what I have been trying to think about and express… that the assessments, observations and judgements made about autistic people, including the wording of a diagnostic report for example, are always in the perception of our behaviour from the outside. It is only in personal stories and blogs like yours where we get to see ourselves ‘explained’ from the inside.

    I also agree with Catana, that asking ‘people’ (who read your blog) to ask for our take on things isn’t realistically going to happen. People just see us as people, unless we walk around with a big sign saying ‘autistic’ and a further list of requests as to what that means for each of us, and/or allowances we individually need.

    It’s not that I disagree, but this particular point, along with so many other social difficulties (that have cost me friendships, relationships, jobs, etc.) still remains an impasse with people who can only see our behaviour from their own point of view.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Hmmm…
    Do I need to be always right?
    What about if I am, most of the time right?
    Shall I just bow down again and again, to the usual bullying of people who actually know that I’m right, but are too unjustifiably proud and/or stupid to acknowledge it?
    Do I need to win a discussion? No, not for the sake of winning it, but otherwise I’ll have to follow someone else’s failure to reach decisional sanity… Because while I’m learning from my mistakes (as that’s what learning is) the inhabitants of this realm learn only to be as cunning as it takes, to keep their inferiority and adjacent complex hidden.
    So what did I learn? My late grandmother taught me that “silence is gold”, so I’ve learned to keep my gold treasury locked in a majestic silence.
    Otherwise, when I open my mouth, there goes the eye rolling…
    Example: some months ago, a colleague of mine asked me if there’s anything wrong behind me having gone cold and silent? I said no, except last time I was told that I’m asking too many questions, which suggests I’m insecure(???????????????). So since I’m not insecure, just want to make sure the team is aware of my next moves, I reckoned I’ll go stealth mode, which is actually my normal functioning mode. Oh no, the person said, it’s fine to talk… So I turned my chair towards the person’s desk and engaged in a refrained sharing of what I considered necessary.
    Guess what? After a couple of minutes, I realised I’m talking to myself, and after another minute, the person left, remembering something urgent to do, never to return until I left the office.
    Ever since, there’s no more questioning about my cold/quiet/silent/stealth mode.
    And this is one of my average days/weeks/months/years/decades 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Lol I love how you describe it! I can relate 😊 If it were up to me, I’d say you’re right all the time 😉💞

      Liked by 2 people

  9. “We’re detail-oriented. If a detail someone mentions/quotes/states is inaccurate, our minds may get stuck on it and we might not be able to leave it alone. To let it go as-is feels like letting it hang in the air–loose, swinging wildly in the wind, and wrong/inaccurate. Our perfectionism often has much more to do with ourselves; we’re usually a lot tougher on ourselves than we are with anyone else. We wouldn’t feel right with ourselves if we let it go. Our conscience might nag at us until we’ve made the correction.”

    One of my favourite quotes comes from one of my favourite characters, Stephen Maturin. On being appointed ship’s surgeon, he bridles at his being described as “surgeon” in the appointment document, because he is actually a physician – if you know your 18th/19th century medical history, you know that that is an important distinction. When his captain points out that he should just go with it, since the appointment is as surgeon, but everybody knows he’s something better, Maturin is not satisfied. “It’s a false description,” he says, ” and a false description is anathema to the philosophic mind.”
    There you have it: Aspies have philosophic minds!

    [P.S. Sorry to confuse your moderation filter, I am the same person as Elin, but I have a new gravatar and have logged in with my WordPress details, which is linked to a different email address. I am the very same individual, though, I swear!]

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah!! I love it!! Hehe I know a little medical history from that timeframe but alas, nothing very impressive yet. Working on that lol. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!! Learn something new everyday, right? 👏🏼👏🏼😊❤️

      Like

  10. Also, if I may hijack your comment thread for my purposes for a moment, I have decided to do my dithering and agonising in public and have set up a blog. It’s a bit of a construction site still, but I was impatient to get the first post out there. If WordPress works the way I think it does, my name should link to it. I think the home page is still empty, you might have to go to the blog part to see it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely! Congratulations on starting your blog! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. Following, looking forward to reading ❤️. Awesome 💜💙

      Like

  11. Yes. Yes, this! I’ve had this said to me enough times to hurt. It’s one of those funny things where I knew they were wrong but I didn’t know why, never had an explanation – so of course in the way that I instinctively am, fair and unemotional about facts and tending to be swayed by the weight of the observations, I concluded that they must be right, even if I didn’t understand, and I was just a bad person. Your explanation makes sense. That matches the way I feel much better than what other people tell me.

    This is why I read autistic blogs. To get words for the things I don’t yet have words for myself.

    Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely words! You are so kind 😊❤️

      And you’re so right! Full-circlely enough, your blog was one of the earlier ones I found, and it helped me to understand some former mysteries, too! Thank you for what you do – I have your blog bookmarked for reference and I visit often and look forward to your posts 👍🏽😊💞

      Liked by 1 person

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