Friday, March 27, 2009

Guide to conversational balance for aspergers patients

A first rule for successful social interaction is to show interest in another person by listening and asking questions. But it is important not to take this too far. Indeed, aspergers patients who rely too rigidly on interaction rules tend to overdoit, and then come across as they truly are: naive and awkward.

When monitoring your level of listening and inquisitiveness, keep in mind that in the world of regular people, there are two perfectly acceptable conversational modes, depending on the culture you are working in. These modes are two extremes on a spectrum.

In the first mode, conversants take turns talking, and they rarely ask questions. Both conversants feel heard because there is a flow to the conversation. When one conversant stops talking, the other continues on a related topic. Conversants make some (usually subconscious) effort to not hog the speaking time.

In the second mode, conversants rarely bring up a new topic, or speak for more than about 30 seconds, without being prompted by a question. The conversation is guided by questions. Conversants take turns asking questions. At times, as the conversation grows in depth, one conversant may go on longer monologues, but they periodically wind down to wait for more proding by the other conversant. This conversational mode emphasizes listening more than the first, but this style can be more lurching, and less flowing.

As you are aware of these two modes of conversation, you prepare for conversational balance by adapting to the conversational mode of the other participant. Once you are working within that mode, seek converational balance by trying to talk during a third to two-thirds of the time.

One caveat to this system is that if the other conversant is attempting to adapt to your conversational mode at the same time that you are trying to adapt to theirs, awkwardness may result. If you sense this happening, you can set the mode of the conversation yourself, either by taking off with a brief monologue, or launching into a few questions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very tidy, very tidy.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Mama JJ said...

Well said.

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps this guide would be useful to shy persons as well, or foreigners, those with social phobias or any number of others.


8:33 AM  

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