Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The 'Don'ts' Of Manners

These are what I would consider the basic “Don’ts” of good manners. As with the ‘Do’s”, I’d appreciate feedback.
1) DON’T be deliberately rude or insulting – yes, every aspie on the planet makes mistakes and blurts things out now and again, and just like NTs we can lose our tempers, but ASD is not a ‘get out of jail’ card that allows us to behave however we like, anymore than NTs can.

Even if you really do think (for instance) that someone is so stupid it’s a wonder they can walk and talk at the same time, it’s best to just stay silent or leave the situation. This especially applies to people like your boss, the police, judges, Social Welfare staff, and anyone else who potentially holds your fate in their hands. Making them mad is Definitely Not A Good Idea.

[27/1/2012 Note - My friend Paula has pointed out to me that I should include swearing in the 'don'ts' - I would see this as part of being 'rude and insulting'. Also Not A Good Idea, especially don't do in front of kids, senior citizens, teachers, The Boss, and anyone else in the above Power Over Your Life groups.]

2) DON’T stand closer than arms length when talking to someone. ‘Arm’s length’ means how close you’d be if you stretched your arm out straight, and could just touch them with the tip of your fingers. This applies to anyone you’re not on intimate or close terms with, such as your partner or child or maybe a very close friend. With anyone else, the further the better, really. Put simply, it freaks people out. They’re not sure what you want, but they don’t like it anyway.

3) DON’T talk about or do your bodily functions in public. ‘Public’ means anyone you’re not close to, as above. This especially applies to anything to do with private parts or the digestive system. It’s usually okay to mention things furthest away from these parts – eg that you have a headache or your feet hurt - but don’t (deliberately) belch, burp or fart; scratch yourself in intimate places, talk about your indigestion or how you’ve had diarrhea all week. (Your nearest and dearest probably won’t want to know about the latter either, really!)

Basic rule of thumb here – if you wouldn’t want to hear about others’ bodily functions, then they don’t want to hear about yours.

4) DON’T interrupt other people’s conversations unless it‘s for a damn good reason. ‘Good reasons’ are those that are urgent and/or important - eg “the building is on fire”, “dinner is ready”, or “the boss wants you in his office NOW”. That you’ve just a fascinating thought about The Battle of Waterloo, there’s a butterfly at the window, or “I wonder what ballpoint pens are made of?” are not!!!

5) DON’T comment on anyone else’s appearance unless it’s a compliment. As with some of the above points, this is especially true for those you don’t know well. Out in public, it’s best not to say anything at all about how other people look, especially total strangers. And don’t stare at people either, even if you do find them/their behaviour fascinating, or you’re watching them to learn how to behave. Quick, sideways or cautious glances are better.

6) DON’T ramble on about your favourite topic/special interest. It’s usually okay to give a BRIEF statement about it, but don’t go on and on. It’s a good idea to memorise one or two sentences that sum up your special interest, and use it if anyone asks you what you’re interested in, or what you’ve been doing lately, etc.

Of course you might be lucky enough to stumble across a fellow lover of Ancient Egypt/ dinosaurs/ hubcaps/ trains/ whatever – but they are hard to find, and as we autistics aren’t sensitive to the little clues that tell us someone is only pretending to be interested, it’s best to assume they’re not. If they are truly interested, they’ll ask you more.

That’s about it really. For just about all of these, there are possible refinements, but these are what I see as the basics. If anyone can think of anything else, do let me know.

(NB - for more on this subject, look to my previous posts list down on the right.)

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