Autistic people have a knack for details, honesty, and straightforwardness. We speak in truth and with a strong desire to help. Yet, instead of receiving praise for these qualities, we are often called “rude.”
Descriptions of people with autistic traits are often selected in the context of societal “usefulness.” For example, we’re “geniuses” if our special interests directly relate to a company’s profit, but we’re eccentrics if our interests are not viewed as capitalistically valuable.
Basically, an autistic person is thought of as honest and true when our opinions benefit neurotypical people, but once our observations contradict what someone else wants to hear, our traits are cast in a negative light: blunt, arrogant, rude.
How can autistic person respond when someone mistakes our good-natured honesty for coldheartedness? Here are a few ideas:
1) While it’s tempting to insist on good intentions or jump into an explanation of autism traits, we may need to let the person we’ve offended cool down first. It’s hard to explain myself to someone who is feeling hurt. In fact, waiting to explain might also give us the necessary time to craft a response.
2) Many autistic people are more comfortable writing our thoughts than speaking them. As such, we can write a letter or email to the person we’ve hurt. (Be careful not to do this in a work situation, though.) We can explain our autistic traits, our intentions, and ask the other person how we can better support them in the future.
3) We can apologize for “unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings,” but I personally feel that an autistic person should never apologize for acting autistic. I don’t like saying sorry for telling the truth, but I am sorry if my impact (regardless of intent) was harmful. Note: It’s best to keep the “I’m not sorry for what I said” to ourselves though!
4) Feeling misunderstood can be just as painful as being offended. If someone accuses us of malicious intent, we may need to take some time to care for ourselves. Be sure to talk to a trusted friend, journal, or practice whatever soothing routines we prefer.