Don’t answer my question!

Don’t ask me a question if you don’t want to know MY answer.

Don’t you just love it when people ask you a question and proceed to make assumptions and try to answer it for you or worse, only give you a couple of options as replies, influencing your thoughts and closing down any chance of an authentic unadulterated reply.

I don’t know if you have noticed but UK chat-show host Jonathan Ross does this all the time.  It’s not called “The Jonathan Ross Show” for nothing – because it’s all about him!

It’s not just irritating to watch it’s exasperating when it happens to you in conversation. In my experience I notice it in networking situations, meeting new people who have, of course already made some assumptions about you based on what you look like and your voice/accent in the first few seconds.

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Why do we ask questions?

Surely it is to find out information we didn’t previously know.  Why, then, would anyone try to guess the answer, or make assumptions (which are often wrong)? Is it because we hope to show the person we are talking to that we are able to guess accurately what they will say? Is it because we think we might make a connection by showing we are intuitive?

Maybe no-one thinks much before doing it, it’s just a nasty habit they have picked up. The trouble with habits is they are hard to break.  You have to form a stronger new habit to override that behaviour or action.

Here’s a question, “Do you care enough about good quality conversations to form a new habit?”

Becoming self aware isn’t an easy or swift practise.  Listening skills can be applied to yourself as well as to others. In any and all conversations, try to listen to what you say, what questions you ask, and if you stop talking immediately to hear the real answer.

Successful people listen, remember details and use their charisma to win people over and build strong relationships. They don’t spend their time telling people things or sharing information out.  They are gatherers of information and by remembering details along the way, they can make people feel special by mentioning those details when next they meet. For example, when someone asks you how your spouse and children are by name, or how you got on at important event you mentioned last time you spoke.

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Here’s another question, “Would you give someone feedback if they were doing it to you?”

Most people baulk at the idea of giving someone feedback.  Especially if they have been given poor feedback themselves from others in the past.  I wouldn’t expect you to or advise you to give feedback to a new acquaintance but you can give feedback to those you know well.  Friends and family and co-workers should be able to receive feedback given kindly, privately and at an appropriate time.

Receiving feedback is an art. I’ll be writing a whole blog about giving and receiving feedback, soon.

Sam Warner 07973 490150              Email: sam@get-your-message-across.com

Sam’s website: www.get-your-message-across.com  

www.toastmasters.org     www.shropshirespeakers.org.uk       www.ludlowspeakers.org.uk

Because Communication is not optional.

Asperger’s and Tips for Coping with Life #3

Asperger’s Coping Mechanisms (3 part blog)

There are things in life that are rarely taught or talked about and for neurotypical people it seems they were just born with this knowledge. For those on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD) becoming self-aware, acquiring coping mechanisms and giving yourself thinking time to cope with situations that may arise means you can be less confused and feel more confident.

Remember that your perception of the world is a little different, it just means that your brain works differently. Not everyone works in black and white (all or nothing) most work in greys so it can be harder for them to empathise and understand if you appear to be obsessed or single-minded about something.

There are some books out there with guidance, but I’ve put together my own brief list as not everyone wants to read a book.

Here are some more tips to cope in society when you have Asperger’s

Feedback – Asking for feedback is one of the very best ways to become more self-aware and it will help you to tweak any behaviours that don’t quite give you the results you want. Many people are untrained in the art of giving feedback or evaluation so you may need to help them by coaching them. Tell them what you want to comment on. What did they observe?  What was factually correct, what examples can they give, what recommendations do they have for corrective action or improvement? It’s a good idea to coach them to avoid using words like should, must, wrong, bad, awful, difficult, perception, and generalisations.  They can’t speak for others and shouldn’t try to, it’s what a lot of people do to take the limelight off them so listen out for “we”…., it should be “I”…..  They should just tell you their own personal observations and recommendations from their perspective.

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Calendar – Everyone (neurotypicals or Aspergic alike) will have their own preference for scheduling and controlling their time and routine. It’s a common misconception that those on the Autistic Spectrum need a rigid routine and have a meltdown if it’s not stuck to rigidly. However, you might find comfort in a general framework to your life. Spontaneity and being flexible is a useful attribute to practise if it doesn’t come naturally. It can be very challenging working someone who never plans, always does things on the fly and it can make more work for you if you work closely with them, so working with them closely and their manager will hopefully help you to overcome this annoying problem. It won’t go away on its own.

You might need to have plenty of notice of an event, even if it’s as small as a family member coming round for a cup of tea.  It might be that anything sooner than two weeks is too spontaneous for you.  Try to find out what your most comfortable timescale is so that you can let others know how they can plan in events and meetings with you and whether you need a reminder every few days to help you feel comfortable with it.  It takes away your stress and will assure others that you are co-operative and self-aware.

Travelling abroad – Doing homework is the best way to make your trip smooth and event-free. Some airports have 360 degree virtual tours, some airports (like Shannon, Ireland) have special baseball caps for Autistic people to wear (if they want) which will help the staff to be extra kind, careful and understanding of any anxieties that might be displayed.

Planning well in advance and ensuring you have printed out all your documentation the day before, have copies of important documents like Passports kept safe and told someone you trust back home your itinerary and contact numbers at hotels etc.  This will give you peace of mind and make the travelling experience much less stressful.  I always make a comprehensive list at least a week in advance so that I have time to collect everything together.

Be mindful to ask lots of questions when travelling to new cultures as misunderstandings can arise if assumptions are made about how to behave in society.  What might be right in one country might not be in another.

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Getting your message across – Self-awareness and self-improvement are the keys to unlocking coping techniques that work. Personal development is a very useful way to tap into your strengths and weaknesses (we all have them) and work on the things we’d like to improve upon. Get Your Message Across can help you do this, building your arsenal of skills for life.  CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is often forced on people with Aspergers’ because there’s not a lot else out there to help.  The key is to find something that works for you and that you can trust, and that you believe in.  It’s like saying affirmations – you have to believe them otherwise they are pointless.

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Sensory Sensitivity – see my other blog on this subject, as it so vast a subject, for my sensitivity and coping mechanisms.

Remember to read Asperger’s & Tips for Coping with Life #1 and #2 too

For upcoming classroom and online courses on improving your confidence or your communication skills, you can check out Sam’s website below. Sam also conducts coaching for friends and families of those with Asperger’s working on coping mechanisms and challenging behaviours, and life coaching to help with goal setting and accountability.

Sam Warner 07973 490150              Email: sam@get-your-message-across.com

Sam’s website: www.get-your-message-across.com  

www.toastmasters.org     www.shropshirespeakers.org.uk       www.ludlowspeakers.org.uk

Asperger’s & Tips for Coping with Life #2

Asperger’s Coping Mechanisms (3-part blog)

There are things in life that are rarely taught or talked about, and for neurotypical people it seems they were just born with this knowledge. For those on the Autistic Spectrum (ASD) becoming self-aware, acquiring coping mechanisms and giving yourself thinking time to cope with situations that may arise means you can be less confused and feel more confident.

Remember that your perception of the world is a little different, it just means that your brain works differently. Not everyone works in black and white (all or nothing) most work in greys so it can be harder for them to empathise and understand if you appear to be obsessed or single-minded about something.

There are some books out there with guidance, but I’ve put together my own brief list as not everyone wants to read a book.

Here are some more tips to cope in society when you have Asperger’s

General Rules – Some rules are rigid and some rules are flexible. It’s very useful to ask clarifying questions to find which are which. It’s important to understand that lots of people say they are going to do things, and then don’t follow through. They mean it when they say it, they are not lying but many people suffer from procrastination or try to please others by saying yes all the time even if they don’t have the capacity to fit it in. It is our gift to be understanding and tolerant of this and help others to achieve their goals by being helpful and supportive, not judgmental and critical. We should never judge others by our own standards as there are rarely the same.

Jobs and Interviews – Body language and the way you dress is very important in interviews, so get some advice from a trusted friend so you don’t create a problem you didn’t need to create. I’m not saying you can’t have a personality and show your style, but it’s probably better to wait until you have secured the job before you do that if you are a little Avant Garde or eccentric (both great attributes to have but not usual for neurotypicals). Try to do some rehearsal with a trusted friend, a little role play, and anticipate which questions you think they will ask so you don’t get caught off guard. You should assume they will ask you things like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “ Tell me about a time when you overcame a problem or confrontation”. Do some research on the company but don’t be a know it all. Another favourite question is “Tell me about yourself”. This can be confusing as you’ve probably already sent them your CV and application form or letter, but they wan to hear a summary in your own words to hear how you communicate. If they ask about your hobbies, keep it to a brief overview unless they ask more probing questions about a specific subject. Some jobs will be very difficult to do if you have ASD, mostly those that require a lot of public interaction, and making assumptions about human behaviour and using intuition.

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Only 15% of all Adults diagnosed with Autism are in work!

You could ring them before the interview if you felt comfortable speaking to them on the phone to let them know you process info a little differently to the general public and you’d like some more direct questions int he interview to help you relax and be yourself.  They will get more out of it too, so it’s in their best interests, and if they are not willing to adapt, then chances are they will not make any allowances in the job either – so do you really want to work for them?

When you are in your job you can find out who you can trust and what the rules are, what can be flexible, and how the “game” is played so that you are not at a disadvantage. One of the best things you could do is interview everyone you work with to find out how you will be working with them, what their expectations of you are and so you can tell them how you like to work too.

Meek Assertive Aggressive
Looks down.

Keeps his fists clenched (a closed signal).

Often speaks too quietly.

Steps backwards when spoken to.

Has a weak handshake.

Is easily put down by others.

Is often angry with himself for allowing others to take advantage of him.

Is shy and withdrawn in company.

Cannot accept compliments.

Says ‘oh dear!’ and ‘sorry’ too much.

Has an upright but relaxed stance.

Maintains eye contact when listening or speaking (for over two-thirds of the time) looking at faces as a whole.

Has a firm handshake but not too firm.

Is able to say ‘no’ when needs must.

Can express his true feelings.

Is interested in other people’s opinions as well as his own.

Tries to treat everyone as equals.

Stands still with stiff, rigid posture.

Keeps his arms folded.

Shouts and points finger.

Bangs desk or table.

May give eye contact almost the whole time he is speaking (looking straight into the eyes).

Is better at talking than at listening.

Likes telling others what to do.

Thinks his own opinion is always right.

Likes to tell other people they’re useless.

Tends to make himself quite lonely because people feel they have to be careful around him.

Taken from ‘Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger Syndrome’ by Marc Segar

Education – Bragging and showing off are unattractive and should be avoided where possible. Be assured that in a conversation where you are knowledgeable about the subject – it will come across quite clearly without you having to prove it, or demonstrate it. There are times and places where showing off your knowledge is fine (perhaps at a club of like-minded enthusiasts comparing collections or information). It might be that you are not very good at getting high grades in tests and exams – don’t be put off. Just because you can’t conform to a set way of regurgitating information does not mean you don’t know it and can’t apply it. It is usual that those with ASD have more acute problem solving skills, blue sky and detail vision and the ability to focus like no-one else. Try not to compare yourself with others and celebrate your strengths, whatever they are for you.

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Most people don’t understand Asperger’s at all – you have to help them understand sometimes

Social Rules – Its important to keep yourself clean and tidy in order to make it easier for others to stand near you and listen to us and talk to you. If you think people are avoiding you, perhaps check to make sure you have any body odour under control, or you don’t have bad breath or smelly feet. Often people will not tell you about this unless you ask them directly. If they do respond to you confirming it, then the appropriate response is to thank them (not get defensive or have a meltdown) and then do something about it.

Humour and Conflict – An autistic person’s sense of humour is often about things which suggest silliness, ridiculousness or which appear slightly insane. You might find yourself the butt of neurotypicals jokes because they don’t know how to handle someone who is different and have a hard time dealing with their own insecurities. Humour in humans sometimes replaces violence that animals would normally display. If a joke aimed at you is not too harsh it may be a good idea to laugh at yourself. If a joke or some sarcasm aimed at you is too harsh, you can say ‘what do you mean by that’, ‘why did you say that’, ‘what’s that supposed to mean’, or ‘that’s not very nice’. You may have to use your discretion in order to choose a suitable answer but putting someone else on the spot can be quite a good defence. If a joke or some sarcasm aimed at you is downright hurtful, here is a last resort you can use. Calmly say that you found the joke hurtful and ask if it was meant to be hurtful. If the other person says ‘can’t you take a joke’ or messes you around in some other way, stick to your guns and just calmly ask them again if they meant it to be hurtful. If they answer ‘no’ then you have got what you needed. If they answer ‘yes’ then calmly walk away and in future make it very difficult for that person to talk to you until they apologise of their own accord.  You will have given them a clear message that their plan to make themselves feel good at your expense is noted and will not be tolerated whilst keeping your dignity intact.

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Getting your message across – Self-awareness and self-improvement are the keys to unlocking coping techniques that work. Personal development is a very useful way to tap into your strengths and weaknesses (we all have them) and work on the things we’d like to improve upon. Get Your Message Across can help you do this, building your arsenal of skills for life.

Sensory Sensitivity – see my other blog on this subject, as it so vast a subject, for my sensitivity and coping mechanisms.

Remember to read Asperger’s & Tips for Coping with Life #1 too, #3 coming soon

For upcoming classroom and online courses on improving your confidence or your communication skills, you can check out Sam’s website below. Sam also does coaching for friends and families of those with Asperger’s working on coping mechanisms and challenging behaviours, and life coaching to help with goal setting and accountability.

Sam Warner 07973 490150              Email: sam@get-your-message-across.com

Sam’s website: www.get-your-message-across.com  

www.toastmasters.org     www.shropshirespeakers.org.uk       www.ludlowspeakers.org.uk

Are you really Listening?

Listening skills are so underrated.

I’ve learned a lot of useful stuff over the last few years. I used to dominate the conversation, I would interrupt because I was desperate to say what came into my head before I forgot, I used to talk too much and I would forget to ask people questions and wait to really listen to their answers.  It meant that people didn’t really enjoy spending time with me.  I wouldn’t have enjoyed spending time with me if I had met me.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Am I really listening?”

I bet you have personal, first hand experience of meeting someone new and they monopolise the conversation. They either want to tell you their life story or everything about their amazing new opportunity and they forget to ask you any questions, or to listen to any answers if they did ask you a question. It can be very draining. I bet you’d avoid them if you saw them again….?

I’ve been in many situations in networking recently where I feel like I’ve been grilled, it’s like the other person has 50 questions they needed me to answer before I was allowed a chance to ask them about themselves, and have, you know, a conversation! I feel violated and exhausted, and it doesn’t make me feel valued and accepted.

I don’t know if that’s nervousness on their part, or a way to control the situation, or a way of filtering out people who are useful/useless to them. Whatever the reason, it still leaves me feeling a bit cheated and disrespected. Another person that I’d probably avoid if I saw them again.

Don’t you feel great when you feel listened to?

There’s something lovely about having a real conversation, that gentle to and fro, your turn, my turn, sharing of anecdotal stories, the asking of a question and a listening to the answer, and asking a follow up question based on and directly related to the answer. This is building rapport, a relationship and getting to know someone.

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People buy people remember; and even if the person in your conversation isn’t someone you will find yourself working with in the future, you might meet someone else who could use their products or services and with your hand on your heart you will be able to recommend them based on the relationship you built in your conversation.

The other kind of listening that is often missed is looking out for details; names, dates, places, anything that you can repeat back to the other person so they know you really were listening. There’s a technique I use where I repeat what the other person is saying in my head almost like I’m talking at the same time, but it’s a discipline that helps me to block out the rest of the room. Its especially helpful in noisy networking situations when it can be hard to hear clearly or for a sustained amount of time.

What’s your listening technique?

Once out of the meeting, make some notes whilst the info is fresh in your mind about the people you have met. How good will that person, that you just met briefly, feel, if you remember they said their child was going to win an award or they had achieved a big contract, and you ask them how that’s going. They will feel really respected that you bothered to remember. It’s one of the key techniques employed by top charismatic and charming leaders who are extremely successful.

So, don’t be that other person in the conversation that interrogates or won’t take turns; relax, enjoy the dialogue, listen to the way they speak and words they use. Be genuinely interested and offer relevant information. Listen out for an accent, unusual turns of phrase, silently acknowledge if you think they are confident, or shy, or if you think they are just starting out or dab hands, you can modify your language accordingly, (but don’t make assumptions).

It is within you to give the gift of respect and listening.

They might also use similar words in their dialogue like “Do you see what I mean” “Let me paint you a picture” or feel the need to grab a pen to illustrate their point.  Chances are that this is a good indication they will respond to dialogue from you with similar visual references, and you know they will love to see some slides if you are presenting to them.  They might also be influenced by how you dress.  On a similar note, auditory and kinaesthetic people will use different dialogue which will help you understand how to connect with them on an emotional and personal level.  I’ll be doing another blog covering this whole subject soon.

When communicating at home, often the TV or computer will get in the way of communication.  It’s useful to say the person’s name and wait for them to acknowledge you before diving in, so that you know you have their full attention.  “Dave, can I ask you something?”, I wait……….. he pauses TV, looks at me “Go on then, yes”.  Now I know he’s listening and not distracted I can deliver my question or message. If I tried to speak whilst he was in full flow (watching TV for instance) he would not be able to listen to me, or respond to me.  There’s no point getting huffy with someone for not listening if you didn’t give them time to connect with you, and be receptive.

If you know someone else that dominates conversations perhaps you could give them some kind and supportive feedback to help them understand their impact on others. I’ll cover giving and receiving feedback in a future blog.

Remember to ask yourself occasionally “Am I really listening?”

Hope you find this info useful.

Remember – communication isn’t optional. http://www.get-your-message-across.com