There is a power that some people possess that has always confused me. Certain people have an uncanny ability to avoid accountability for their actions by twisting and stretching the situation so that you are the reason the problem exists. These people are emotionally volatile and by the time they’ve finished, they can almost convince you that it’s not their behavior that is the concern. It is your REACTION to their behavior that is the problem.
These people have a magical way with words that always manages to clear them of any responsibility or wrong-doing. Their ability to flip a situation around and make you feel guilty is mind-boggling. Usually it happens so fast that you don’t even realize it until all the drama is over. I’ll give an example:
You have a friend you go to lunch with. Maybe she realizes she’s being rude. Maybe she doesn’t, but when she wants the waitress she waves her hand in the air, wolf whistles and shouts “Hey! Over here!” It embarrasses you. When the waitress does come, she is really demanding and rude. “I know they give you onions on the side, but I want you to dice them for me.” “I want lemon for my tea but don’t put it on the glass. Bring an extra dish for it to sit on.” “This butter for my rolls is too hard. Go find some soft butter.” On top of all that, she leaves a lousy tip. $1. No matter what her meal costs, she always leaves a dollar. It’s gotten to the point where you don’t even want to go out to lunch with her anymore because it is so embarrassing. If you just avoid her, you know it will turn into a big deal. You decide to talk to her about it.
You tiptoe. You approach slowly. “There is something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. When we go out to eat, you are not polite to the wait staff. You ask them to go above and beyond for you. You whistle and wave at them. You only leave $1 tip.” Probably you drag this conversation out a little longer but for the sake of the blog, that’s the gist of it.
Your friend immediately reacts.”WHAT? So you’re sitting here trying to tell me that I’m rude? So you’re taking the side of a waitress – someone you don’t even KNOW? You’re saying that when I go out to eat I shouldn’t ask for my food to be cooked the way I like it because it’s TOO DEMANDING?”
You try to explain, but your friend isn’t listening. She’s intent on making this YOUR fault. Not hers “So I’m at a restaurant paying $2 for a glass of tea and when it’s empty I’m NOT supposed to signal the waitress?!? I’m supposed to just wait until she has the TIME to fill my drink while my food gets cold? That’s what you expect? That I shouldn’t order my food the way I want and shouldn’t expect my drink to be refilled?!? Why the hell even go? Fine. You win!! You want to be that way? Don’t ever worry about going to a restaurant with me EVER again!”
You’re shell shocked. What just happened here? You check yourself. You ask others if they would deem her behavior rude. Yes, they would. Yet she’s turned it around and made it so you are the jerk with unreasonable demands.
For all Aspies, these types of arguments are hurtful. For some Aspies who experienced bullying or abuse, these types of arguments are even more damaging. Because so many of us were bullied or endured abuse from our families, screaming and yelling causes us to shut down. It mentally reverts us back to that small, scared child who cannot defend him/herself: that child that just wants to shrink into the pavement and disappear. We are so distraught by the anger and the yelling that we cannot even defend our position. We just want to melt into the wall.
What’s even worse is that for many non-autistic people, fighting like this is acceptable. They scream. They yell. The next day they are fine. We aren’t. We’re still trying to find a logical, sensible solution to the problem. We’re still trying to figure out what part of our approach was so repulsive that the person reacted the way they did. We’re swimming in a sea of lost. More than likely we are blaming ourselves because we’ve always failed at “reading people” that it never occurs to us that the other person is IN THE WRONG.
They say things like “I got mad. I’m over it. YOU need to get over it too” AS IF it were that easy for us. We need to analyze. We want to know why. What caused it? We want to break it down into micro-particles so we NEVER make that mistake again. All the while, never realizing that it wasn’t our fault.
We have been taught that we are the oddballs – the ones who are different, so when people react differently than we think they should, we automatically assume it was our error. It’s NOT.
I wish I could tell you how to deal with individuals like this. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. It’s hard when they are your ‘friends’ but it is even harder when they are your family. Maybe some day I’ll know how to approach them better. Maybe some day I’ll be able to stand my ground. But for now…I’ve taken the first step by realizing that at least this time… this time… *I* am not wrong.
Have you had an experience like this? How did you react?