Small Talk, Big Headache

I am not a fan of “small talk”. In fact, I don’t even understand it. Personally, it seems like a good way to go in circles and never get to know people. Maybe it’s just me but I have always thought this way. Seems like a huge waste of time, no? I don’t understand why people prefer to discuss mediocre subjects when there are amazing things to talk about right in front of us!

I have always had extreme interests and although they do change or “cycle” in and out, I can never get enough discussion about my favorite topics. When someone brings up one of my favorite topics, I get so incredibly over-excited. My heart starts pounding, a feeling of crushing pressure builds behind my eyes, my hands start trembling, and my brain goes into over-drive.

In fact, if someone so much as says “Hello” my brain does this because it doesn’t happen all that often. It’s almost like my body is over-stimulated by just the beginning of interaction and I keep rambling on and on about “nothing” (to them) and in turn pushing them away.

This is the moment I have experienced countless times. I can feel tears stinging my eyes just typing this. I can see them pulling away mentally and even physically and there is nothing I can do to stop them. There is nothing I can to erase what I’ve said. No amount of apologizing will reverse it, and do you know why?

I’ve finally realized something very recently. I cannot erase or reverse it because it is simply who I am. When I realized that this is just the way my brain works, I felt hopeless at first. I’ve felt this loneliness many times but never with the clarity I’ve found. Once I had this figured out, I had to make a decision- a big decision. I could either accept myself for who I am or decide to separate myself from everyone else.

I suddenly realized last week, that even though I have pushed so many people away, a big part of the problem, was that I was judging myself so harshly. I would tell myself that they deserved better or I couldn’t be a good friend. I would literally cut them off completely to protect them from my personality. This changed somewhat when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age twenty-three. I finally recognized I wasn’t a bad person but it wasn’t enough to wake me up.

Last week, I was standing outside after a walk and I was thinking about how many people have judged me and my brain said to me, “Who judges you?” It stopped me in my tracks. I could only think of a couple people. Really? That’s everyone? No, the person that was judging me constantly, was myself. No wonder I felt like it never ended. I was constantly criticizing myself and telling myself that I should be sorry for every word that comes out of my mouth.

I realized that even if I was in a room of people who didn’t judge me at all, I would still be there, harrasing my own good intentions and hard work. I have become my own worst enemy. I realized that instead of hiding from behind a wall of apologies, I needed to start liking myself a little more. If I can’t count on myself to give myself a break, how in the world could I ever expect someone else to do that for me? And even if they did, would I ever feel content? Probably not.

I realized I was constantly projecting my own emotions on other people. I’ve been assuming they couldn’t stand me or were giving me the mental eye roll even if they were smiling. Why? I don’t know how to interpret their facial expressions so I assumed they must be as annoyed with myself as I am. No wonder people have told me “Why do you always say you’re sorry?” I have made so many assumptions because it’s easier to criticize yourself and assume the worst than it is to accept yourself.

I made a decision, that night, that I was going to learn how to be my own friend for once. I was going to stop apologizing as much and I was going to starting recognizing my own strengths. If that means sitting on my own more often, if I am anxious, to do something that I am good at then so be it. I can finally stop torturing myself socially. Honestly.

Now, it doesn’t mean I am not going to talk to people. That would not only be destructive but it would never work. It would be like going backwards. But I felt this amazing sense of peace at the thought that I am going to stop hating my quirks so much. They are a part of who I am. I am going to breathe more often and not put so much pressure on myself constantly to say the right thing.

So, if you don’t mind- just skip the “small talk” with me. Tell me what you’re passionate about. Tell me what your dreams are. Tell me what is really on your mind. How are you, really?

About Gretchen McIntire (formerly Leary)

I am 34 years old, I live in the Raleigh area, and I am writing from the perspective of an individual with Asperger's Syndrome.
This entry was posted in ASD, Aspergers, Autism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Small Talk, Big Headache

  1. raeme67 says:

    You have learned the secret that it took me decades to learn.
    Be who you are accept who you are.

  2. phoenixgrae says:

    i learned to create a public and private me. private Aspie me is absolutely amazing and i share it with people who understand and appreciate my quirks. the public typically doesn’t so i prepare myself for “impromptu interactions” and mimic the core group. it’s been really useful professionally. within the first few people you’ll find someone you can connect with and your passion and quirks will make you memorable. WE’RE AWESOME!!!!!

  3. Wow! Good for you Gretchen! You are not the only one who feels that way. I absolutely loved this post. I felt right there with you all the way through and at the end…I felt pumped. I hope you are feeling the same way still.

  4. usevalue says:

    I share your frustration. I’ve often wanted to voice your concluding demand, to skip small talk and go straight to dreams. I’m still trying to work out the reasons that NT folks don’t do this. I feel like there’s a whole content to what seems, to me, contentless that I’m illiterate to. Anthropologist metaphors apply.

  5. ictus75 says:

    I’m like you, I don’t understand small talk. I’d rather just jump into the deep end. But apparently most NTs use small talk as a way to test the waters and work their way into the deep end. How boring. What a waste of time.

    I’ve learned how to mirror others and ‘engage in small talk,’ but it still makes no sense to me. Small talk is another social ritual that most Aspies find mysterious.

    I’ve also learned to shut up about my special interests, lest I drive others mad by going on and on. To fulfill that side of me, I teach and present workshops on my special interests. There, people pay me to ramble on and on about them. Strange worldโ€ฆ

  6. Annalisse Mayer says:

    Yes, I’ve often wondered how much of the problems that we Aspies have results from a misperception of people’s responses to us, a misperception of hostility. When I think back on my childhood impression of being bullied, I now suspect that many of the people who I perceived as bullying me were not, in fact, actually bullying me.

    Even now, sometimes, I catch myself assuming that a compliment is an insult. For instance, if someone likes my dress or my hair, and i have already decided that they look terrible, then I will believe intensely that the person complimenting me is being cruelly sarcastic. It takes a lot of will power for me to tell myself that they are *not* being cruel by complimenting something that I feel insecure about.

  7. The Truth says:

    I established just before Christmas that I have been bullying myself ever since I can remember. It’s an old habit and it’s one of the hardest ones to shift. All those times I thought people were whispering about me behind my back, or thinking I was weird, or questioning my intelligence or whether I was good, attractive, normal or funny enough. That was the voices in my own head questioning myself and make me have this running dialogue of negativity, ultimately always holding me back, making me feel insecure and paranoid and in doubt of my own strength, abilities and personality. I’ve read a lot of your blog tonight, thank you for writing it. I’ve not read anyone else’s blog and related to what they’re saying as much as I have. Check mine out sometime, i’d be be keen to get your perspective on some of my main hardships when it comes to a relationship with a dear friend of mine who has Aspergers…

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