May 5, 2023

Autistic people tend to prefer explicit communication. But even if other people want to support us in that way, many of them struggle to break (or even to recognize) their habits of implicit communication.


I suspect that in many cases, tucking a message between the lines feels safer for them. It protects them from the risk of saying something rude or taboo, because it remains plausible that they meant something else.

For example, they might change the subject instead of saying, “I don’t want to talk about that,” to avoid highlighting their own fear.

Or they might say, “I’ll think about it,” to delay the reaction they’ll get when they say no.

Or they might say, “Noted!” when they want to discard the message without insulting the messenger.

It’s conflict avoidance. They don’t want to make others unhappy.

But from my perspective as a confused autistic person, I want every hint-hider to know that clarity makes me SO MUCH happier.

Even if I’m also disappointed. Or angry. Or sad.

I far prefer those emotions over sensing an interpersonal tension without understanding what I did to cause it. Or what I didn’t do, e.g. what messages I missed. Or what might happen next, if the tension continues to grow.

That uncertainty puts me on edge – like a traveler eyeing the roadside, anticipating an ambush.

Maybe you do it because you’re on edge, too. So this is my reminder and reassurance to any implicit communicators:

Here, with me and most other autistics, it’s safe to tell the truth.

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.