October 19, 2020

I would have made fewer enemies, over the course of my life, if I’d learned this one secret: People feel threatened when you shine a light on their flaws.

By late high school, I had figured out the most obvious applications of this concept: Don’t correct teachers, and don’t point out minor errors in a story.

But “shine a light” is way more subtle than that, and I’m still learning all the possibilities.

Making suggestions can imply that a person was doing something wrong. Requesting something can imply that a person neglected to provide that thing already. Offering to help can imply that I don’t trust a person’s ability.

Sometimes, those implications are true. More often, though, it never crosses my mind that they’ll read into it that way.

That is, until I get a mysteriously snide reaction – which is amplified if the conversation happens in front of others. They minimize me to build themselves up, because I tore them down.

I didn’t mean to.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.