Autism Awareness Small Talk

What makes conversation so difficult? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the rules you notice of social etiquette is everyone is supposed to engage in conversation about nothing in particular, such as talking about weather or things of that sort. In essence, you are supposed to talk about things you don’t care about just to make conversation. For someone on the spectrum, this is something that I can’t stand.

Remember Joe Friday? One of the statements he was famous for was “Just the facts.” That’s the way I find I think on the spectrum. I just want to discuss the subject data. Time is valuable and I want to use it the best I can in conversation. Having small talk is just often seen as entirely fake.

If anything, on the spectrum, it will leave me suspicious of you. Why are you asking all these personal questions? What are you trying to find out? You really become much more of a threat to me when you engage in small talk as I don’t know where you’re going. If you engage in real conversation about real matters, I know what we’re talking about and that’s fine.

Small talk is something that to someone like myself serves no real purpose. It’s really a show. Now there could be some exception if I meet someone who I already know well and we can just chit-chat, but if I don’t know you, it’s something that does produce anxiety.

This also applies to Facebook and I know others not on the spectrum who have the same kind of rule. If I accept your friend request and you immediately message me with a lot of small talk, do not expect me to engage with you. I need to know who you are and what you are messaging me about before I will respond to you.

The best way to talk to someone on the spectrum usually is to find out what they’re interested in and talk about that. It might take talking to someone outside of them to find out, like a friend or family member, but if you find out that person will likely be more open to talking to you. If you come up to us engaging in small talk, it’s like you’re prying us for information and we don’t know where you’re going with it.

Along those lines, I do have plans to write something about how we approach our interests as well. That’s another important aspect to keep in mind when talking to someone on the spectrum. Keep in mind also, we don’t care for fake people. If you’re not really interested, don’t act like you are.

So the tip for today? Avoid small talk. Just get to the point of the conversation. I don’t even like to have small talk with my own family. It’s even worse with a stranger.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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