August 9, 2020

I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but…

You are not annoying.

If those who feel annoyed by you went away, and you clambered up a hill to watch the sunset alone, sprawling on a soft picnic blanket, warmed by the golden glow – you would not wear an invisible badge tainting your identity with the knowledge that you are actually annoying.

Or you might, but it would be a lie.

In my experience, it doesn’t help to notice that some people still like you in spite of your “annoying” traits. It helps more to notice that some people like you because of those traits in particular. But what helps me most is to separate the reaction from the traits, and describe what’s happening more precisely.

“I ask a lot of questions, because I value clarity. This person feels annoyed by that, because they value efficiency more than I do.”

“I like to talk about niche interests, because I value them. This person feels annoyed by that, because they value common interests more than I do.”

“I sometimes speak in a monotone way, because I value focusing on ideas, and find it hard to focus on tone at the same time. This person feels annoyed by that, because they value presentation more than I do.”

If you decide that you want to change your actions to get a different reaction, I support you. But do it with the understanding that you’re trying to improve the relationship, not trying to fix yourself. Be aware of the toll it may take on your mental health. And if you don’t succeed, know that the problem is a difference in values, not a problem with you as a person.

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.