Asperger's survival guide: Distortions of the truth

Chris & Gisela Slater-Walker

Chris & Gisela Slater-Walker are a married couple where one of the partners has Asperger's Syndrome. We hope to provide a positive message about Asperger's Syndrome within marriage, and to show that it is possible to maintain a functional and successful relationship. The following is part of their multi-chapter "Asperger's survival guide"

Distortions of the Truth

* Sarcasm is when someone says one thing but means the opposite. For example, in response to hearing someone burp, someone else might say "how polite". The easiest way of picking up on sarcasm is by listening to tone of voice. You may need to defend yourself against sarcasm at times and this will be covered in following chapters.

* Not knowing the truth is a common reason why people might distort it.

* A particularly nasty form of distorted truth is "scape-goating". This is setting up other people to take the blame for things which aren't their fault. What is even worse is having someone deliberately do something wrong for the sole purpose of getting you blamed for it. If this happens, you must first work out whether it is just a joke or whether it is a serious set-up. If it is serious, and if the blame successfully reaches you, you may need to somehow prove that the wrong doing was not your fault in which case you must tell the right people that you think you've been set up and stick to your word.

* On the other hand, someone might quite innocently create a false truth for the mere purpose of fantasy play. This might apply to children pretending to be comic cartoon heroes, adults dressed up in costume pretending to be father Christmas or someone who is acting in a play.

* If someone asks you a question and giving them the true answer might upset them or cause embarrassment or unfair trouble to other people, you may decide to tell a "white-lie" which is intended to avoid unpleasantness all round.

* If you don't wish to lie, you might still want to withhold the truth. You might be keeping a secret for someone or you might be trying to keep yourself or others out of trouble. In this case, it may be sensible to avoid certain topics of conversation otherwise you might be forced into pretending not to know something, using awkward diversion tactics (which often involve humour) or even lying. Also, you may be expected to automatically know when something is to be kept a secret.

* If someone tries to get a message across to you without hurting you, they might decide to drop a hint. The best example of this is when a man is chatting up a woman but she doesn't want to go out with him in which case instead of saying "I'm not interested, go away" she might slip the words "my boyfriend" into the conversation.

* Sometimes it is possible to be mislead by figures of speech (i.e. metaphors). For example, "I'm over the moon" means I'm very happy. If figures of speech are a problem for you, they can be looked up in certain books, or you can get someone to teach some to you.

* Sometimes someone might lie to you if they want something from you. The best example of this is a door to door salesman who wants your money. If he sells you a television which doesn't work then he would be conning you.

* In conversation, it is not unusual for people to exaggerate. Someone who says "I had about ten pints last night" might actually mean they only had five. People who exaggerate too much can be easily misinterpreted.

* If someone says something which sounds offensive in the literal sense e.g. "You ugly mug face" but with a laugh and a smile, then they mean it as a joke. You often need to pick up on this quite quickly.

* Perhaps the most awkward kind of lies you encounter are teasing lies in which someone says something as a joke to see whether or not you believe them. If what they have just said is highly unlikely or people around them are trying not to laugh, they are probably teasing you. The correct response to this would be to laughingly tell them to p*ss off. If you show doubt as to whether or not they are teasing you, they may see it as a sign of vulnerability. Remember they are probably never going to admit that they are teasing you, no matter how seriously you ask.

* People might start trying to persuade you to make a spectacle of yourself somehow. For example, they may ask you to do a dance or sing a song. Even if you can't see anything wrong with this yourself, it is important not to give in to them, no matter how persuasive they become. The correct response is the same as that for a teasing lie, only perhaps with a touch of anger. If you give in to such requests, you will probably become an all round target for other peoples teasing. If you have already done this in the past, don't worry, just don't let it continue.

* If ever joining in games like "truth or dare" or "strip poker" you could find yourself under even greater pressure to do something. In this case, it is often all right but you might be asked to do something which is completely "out of order" in which case if people become too persuasive you might prefer just to leave the room. If they are true friends, they won't hold it against you for more than a day.

* It must be remembered that not everyone is loyal to the truth. Also, many people select certain parts of the truth and reject others to their own advantages (e.g. in court cases).

* If you need to find out whether or not someone is lying and you have a good reason for doing so, asking them questions might reveal faults in their logic.

Misunderstandings other people might have about you

* If you have difficulties with your eye-contact or body language, some people might mistake you for being shifty or dishonest. If they think this they are probably wrong.

* If you don't react to other peoples body language with your own, they might mistake you for being unsympathetic.

* Many people might make the mistake of thinking that you are unintelligent. If this is because you rarely get a chance to show them signs of intelligence, there may be little you can do except to let them accidentally see you doing something you're good at, whether they like it or not, just as a one off. They might decide not to comment even though they have seen your talent.

* If you try to come across as being cooler, wittier, tougher and more confident than other people then whenever you break an unwritten rule, people might mistake it for nastiness. In this case, it might be in your best interest to drop your pretence.

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