November 4, 2023

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a person feel safe to me, and what a new person could say that might immediately free me to unmask. For example:

“There is no wrong way to move.”

“I won’t think any less of you for liking something I dislike, or for disliking something I do like.”

“If I misunderstand you, or you misunderstand me, we can talk through it until we both figure out what happened.”

“You don’t have to prepare what to say ahead of time, or rush to answer questions, because I can handle the silence while you think.”

“If anything upsets you, in the environment or the conversation, you can let those feelings out however you need. I won’t take it personally or try to squash it, and I’ll stick around until you feel better.”

“I won’t make negative assumptions. If it seems like you weren’t listening, or you think you’re better than me, or anything else that you haven’t explicitly stated, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt – or just ask.”

If someone reassured you in these ways, how would it change your interactions with them? And what else could they say to help you feel safe?

P.S. Science shows that autistics need this kind of support! The concrete examples in my post are partly inspired by broader recommendations in this study about how to help us unmask.

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.