In thinking of other topics I could write about on this blog, the list is endless. However, I want to discuss a topic I feel that is applicable to a lot of people across the spectrum. It is about communication challenges and trying to articulate complex feelings. Although I have normal verbal abilities and can participate in a back and forth conversation most of the time, I still have communication challenges in which speaking can be hard sometimes. It tends to occur when I try to communicate deep personal feelings or desires but do not have the right words (or word choice) to verbally convey what I want to say without people misunderstanding or wrongly misinterpreting my intentions. It also doesn't help that when you are tired and exhausted (as I am currently feeling as I am writing this post), getting the words out is even harder.
Going back to my previous statement of not having the right word choice in communicating my thoughts, I had personal experiences that resulted in me being frustrated or misunderstood in conversations between my parents, therapist and others close to me as a result of this discrepancy between the thoughts in my head and what comes out of my mouth. On the other side, people would often be perplexed because they don't understand what I am saying. There are multiple ways to combine words to communicate a single thought. Because of this, the words come out jumbled and mixed which makes it hard to verbally form a coherent sentence.
Anticipatory anxiety about how the other person would react if I share my thoughts is another factor that can effect my verbal communicative abilities. "What if he/she doesn't get it?" or "What would other people think if I share my personal thoughts?" are thoughts that swirl around in my head when I am about to enter an intense conversation. These invasive thoughts due to anxiety prevent me from thinking clearly on communicating my thoughts that I end up pausing or stumbling in the middle of the conversation figuring out what I should say next.
In general, when the anxiety or figuring out how to verbally communicate intimate and emotional thoughts becomes too much I either try to abruptly change the subject or reply "I don't know." Luckily, the people close to me recognize when I am using these tactics as avoidance and don't take "I don't know" as an answer or move on to another topic without allowing me to accurately express my thoughts. I like that the people around me don't take what I say at face value and always take the time to allow me to accurately articulate my thoughts into words.
This is why I communicate better by writing, emailing or texting. As other autistic advocates share, writing is a lot easier because it allows for more time and flexibility to effectively get the words out. When I am allowed more time to process what I want to say, it removes some of the anticipatory anxiety that can become a barrier to my communicative abilities. I find that blogging has allowed me to fully express my inner thoughts, desires and emotions that would be too difficult to talk about verbally since I have the time to think about what I want to say and to make sure the words I use will accurately communicate my message in a way that others will understand.
I wanted to write a post about my personal challenges with verbal communication to get people to understand that communication difficulties are not exclusive to those on the spectrum who are nonverbal or have limited verbal abilities. So-called "high-functioning" individuals on the spectrum have these issues also. In fact, communication challenges is a core feature of autism spectrum disorders. Just because on the surface I have normal verbal abilities doesn't mean what I say always reflects how I am thinking or feeling inside. I also wanted to share my experience in case other individuals on the spectrum run into these challenges in their day-to-day lives.