Since writing my original post on aspie ‘lack of manners’, a friend of mine has pointed out that what I seemed to mean, largely, was ‘social graces’. In terms of all the complex nuances I struggled to learn, she’s right. They could also be termed ‘conversational skills’, or simply ‘social skills’. Though ‘manners’ does shade into ‘social graces’, like my friend, I don’t think we aspies can really learn the latter very well – as I said, I struggled for decades to do so, at a very high cost. I think it really isn’t worth the effort, as even if we succeed, we simply become polished at being ‘fake NTs’ – and feel bad about our real selves as a consequence.
However, I do still believe that a basic level of manners is a necessary and essential set of skills for us spectrumites. Some of us might ask why bother, especially if they don’t care about the (opinions of the) other people concerned? I feel there are three reasons why.
1) Because being autistic doesn’t mean we’re ‘better’ than others, any more than it means we’re ‘worse’. It means we have the same rights AND responsibilities as everyone else. As my friend Paula Jessop points out, “there are some Aspies who upon diagnosis say ‘I've got Aspergers, I can't change and the world should put up with me saying whatever I want to whoever I want whenever and wherever I want’. This I feel is unacceptable.” I agree. We share the world with others, and if we want respect from other people, then we must offer respect back. That’s true equality.
2) Because it will benefit our own lives, if those around us perceive we’re at least making an effort to be polite, and observing a bare minimum of social ‘rules’. It won’t work all the time, it’s not a magic bullet, but it could ease at least some of the hostility we are often on the receiving end of.
3) Because it will benefit aspies/auties in general. If most of us come across as polite, or making the effort to be, it gives a better impression of us overall, raises our image in people’s eyes – and let’s face it, we get enough Bad Press, why create any more? If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your autie/aspie brothers and sisters – and the next generation of spectrumites.