Understanding Neurotypicals

I feel qualified to explain Neurotypicals. After all, I am one.

As many neuro-diverse people will have realised, neurotypicals are not good at empathy. The neuro-diverse person will listen to words spoken, place themselves imaginatively in the speaker’s position, and know what they feel. A neurotypical will expect the speaker to “emote”. So it is not enough to hear the words “My dog died last week. He was only four years old” and realise that the speaker is sad: the neurotypical will expect the speaker’s voice to sound different, and certain facial muscles to move in a particular way, for that is how neurotypicals communicate that they are sad. If your face and voice do not do these things, neurotypicals may insult you. Please do not blame us for this. We do not know any better. For example we might call you “unfeeling”. And we expect a particular kind of reply, in wordless sounds like “aw” or “oh” and particular facial muscle movements. If you reply in words, to show you understand that way, we might become irritated or angry with you, and insult you with words like “unreasonable” or “weird”. This is because we are extremely sensitive, and many different stimuli will make us behave rudely to you. Please forgive us. We do not know any better.

A neuro-diverse friend asked, when speaking with neurotypicals why do they not take turns in speaking? Why do they ignore him when he listens courteously and then object when he takes his turn to speak? By now, many neuro-diverse people have learned that neurotypicals imperiously change the conversation from an enjoyable one to a weird neurotypical one. The neurotypical might say, “You’re infodumping. Stop.” Then they start talking to someone else. Infuriating as this is, it helps to realise that the easily-hurt neurotypical’s attention span is short, and many suffer from a lack of courtesy. Neuro-typicals are simply not as good at conversation as neuro-diverse people are.

Neuro-diverse people will take turns in conversation. Neurotypicals often won’t. Male neurotypicals especially often treat conversation as a kind of competition. They interrupt when you pause for breath, and want it to seem as if they know more about the subject than you do, even when they don’t. Some neurotypicals object to this behaviour, and call it “splaining”. However the neurotypicals who splain will never admit they are doing it, and some even deny splaining exists. Imagine a neuro-diverse person denying that info-dumping exists. As soon as anyone explained what info-dumping was, they would understand, and do it only with people who welcomed it. However, the more you explain splaining, the more the splainer splains.

Sometimes neurotypicals make rules for conversation, such as that one speaker has five minutes to speak and the other will listen, then they will change roles, so that the previous speaker listens, and the previous listener has five minutes to speak. That we need rules like this shows how competitive we are, and how poor at listening. Typically in such settings, there is a group leader who will explain the rules slowly and carefully, and even then the neurotypical will fail to keep to them: and such neurotypicals using these rules imagine that they are being particularly “spiritual”!

Neurotypicals can have different speaking styles. One told me he always knew what he would say before he said it. Yes, I said, because you can think a sentence in an instant. Actually I didn’t, I said because you can think a sentence like that, and snapped my fingers: we find our ways of communicating without words useful sometimes. Another said he knew what he thought when he said it: trying to explain it to someone else helped him get it clear in his head. But it needs to be clear that we are having such a conversation, or someone else might just interrupt and change the subject when he paused to think. In that way, neurotypical conversation can meander from subject to subject without ever saying anything new or meaningful. This is because neurotypicals are poorly understood, and badly educated. With thought and practice, some neurotypicals can be brought to have conversations which are almost useful. However, often there is one dominant individual who just tells everyone else what to do. This explains the work environment neurotypicals prefer, with managers who have never done the job they are managing.

I wrote this post for Barry, who asked how neurotypicals negotiated conversations. He reported that most neurotypicals do not know, having never thought about it. This shows the need for more neurotypical education. With patience, study and understanding, some neurotypicals can be brought to live almost normal lives.

7 thoughts on “Understanding Neurotypicals

  1. Thank you so much, Clare. Despite the myth that people on the spectrum lack empathy, in my day-to-day interaction with neurotypical people the vast majority show no interest in meeting me half way.

    It’s really heartwarming to know that there are at least a few that are welcoming to divergence of any type. Perhaps one needs to be part of a minority which that is not respected or is undervalued to be truly empathetic to the needs of others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. We must stick together. It is ridiculous when you think of it: “You don’t respond in the way I expect, so there must be something wrong with you”.

      Here, amid new publicity that Hans Asperger was a Nazi, many people do not like the term “Asperger’s syndrome”, and especially do not like the term “disorder”. What alternatives can you think of?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would prefer Asperger over the term high functioning autism, but that’s just my personal opinion. Whether or not Asperger was a Nazi, he was the person who identified the set of characteristics we now know as AS.

        Interestingly, he was part of a social order that expected obedience and conformity to a narrow set of rules, with no room for divergence of any kind. In fact divergence had to be suppressed and punished. Would AS have been recognised as a disorder of it wasn’t for such a society? Possibly not. We’d just be considered anti-social misfits deserving of derision and abuse.

        As to the use of the term ‘disorder’, in most cases it can be replaced with ‘difference’. I do so whenever it seems reasonable. For example it wouldn’t be appropriate to use ‘difference’ with ‘auto immune’.

        I’ve used ‘aspie’ to describe myself, but I notice the adoption of the term ‘autist’ as a form of self identification. I quite like that.

        Liked by 2 people

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