Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Social Shields and Avoiding Awkward Conversations

For as long as I can remember, I have adopted various 'social shields' as a way to get out of an awkward conversation. By awkward conversations I am talking about when someone asks me a question about an issue that I wish to keep private, not because of any kind of bad behavior I've done, but when it relates to a matter of personal preferences that for some hard to explain reason is a sensitive issue for me - often because there is some kind of pre-concieved image tied into my preference whichever way that I am embarrased to associate myself with. My main social shields used to be my watch, and being concerned about time keeping, and needing the toilet. These days, it tends to be my mobile, and its use is not in such obvious situations as it used to be, as I am better prepared and able to handle more questions.

One thing I am sensitive to is knowing what personal things certain people know about me and what I keep private from them. Now sometimes I may have very mixed feelings about whether I want to tell someone I know, such as a work colleague, certain things about my life, preferences and beliefs. On the one hand if I do tell them, it will open myself up to some more interesting conversations and enable me to discuss things that I definitely do want to talk about, but won't make much sense unless I explain the sensitive issue first. On the other hand, revealing the sensitive issue has the potential to give rise to more awkward questions and conversations with that person, and there may be future occassions when I may be concerned as to what that person is thinking about me when a certain situation arises (i.e. if you tell someone you fancy a certain girl and then three months later you're all out together, that's just one general example of the sort of thing I mean). On the basis that you cannot undo information you have given to someone, I generally play safe, and if telling that person something about me is just going to make life harder, I just choose avoid to avoid that topic.

What makes life very difficult, is when someone, whilst not necessarily asking you direct, tries to engage you in a conversation about something that just so happens to be a sensitive issue for you. Sometimes the conversation will start on a 'safe' subject, and then in a way that cannot possibly be anticipated, the other person veers the conversation off into what happens to be your senstive area. Sometimes they may feel very strongly about an issue, and I strongly disagree with them, and they try to engage me into a topic, and when this happens, the only form of defense I can use is to pretend to be having to concentrate on whatever I'm doing a bit more, or look at the clock. If I express my views on the matter, I feel it could lead to a whole host of awkward questions, and potentially awkward situations in future - so it is safer just to keep the whole subject private.

When it comes to how open I am on a certain issue, I am often wanting to be all or nothing with people. Either that person knows the full story, or much of it when it comes to my views or preferences on this subject, with all the whys and that, or I just keep quiet about it. Because that person only knowing half the story is likely to make me feel most uncomfortable and leave me wondering what that person is thinking. Besides 'coming out' as such (I'm not gay) on a subejct and explaining everything at once provides a necessary shield against potential awkward questions that may arise in due course. Its like answering them all in advance so you don't have to face them unexpectedly later.

What If They Find Out Through A Third Party

Unfortantly, a recent incident occured by which I appear to have discovered, that a certain person does know after all something about me that I intended to keep private. I have a number of ideas about how that person may have found out. This is surprising in a way, in view of the way they had been talking to me about this subject. I have to say I have absolutely no respect for someone who knows your secrets, and then tries to engage you with a conversation topic you haven't opened up about to try to get you t reveal more, when revealing with could make life more difficult in future. Now the issue I wish to address is: How do you deal with this type of issue with a person with aspergers?

In short I would say, when a person has found something out about another, and has become apparent to both parties, that really that person would rather not have had them know, but its out there now anyway, the best way is to try and reveal in gently, away from others, that you happen to know this, and give the person time to ask questions about what they know and explain their position, and 'come out and reveal all.' Basically revealling everything necessary to avoid awkward conversations in future. Give the person time and space to adjust to the fact you knew about this issue, and if necessary allow them time out to wander and think it through.

I am of course beig very vague in this post, this is necessary to protect my own and other people's identities among those I know. How exactly one will deal with this will vary upon the individual situation. But I hope readers will understand the general principles here, in terms of why some issues will want to be kept private, and have to sensitively tackle a sensitive issue with someone, especially one with aspergers, when unwanted things have become revealled. 

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