Anonymous said to realsocialskills:
I’m autistic, I went to a group that was supposed to help me with autism-related issues, and they gave me some social skills advice that I honestly think was terrible. And the group was pretty terrible in general.
I ended up quitting for various other reasons, but it’s still sorta bugging me ’cause what if they’re RIGHT.
The advice went like this: It’s okay to disagree with someone, but it’s never okay to explain WHY, because that’s pushing your opinion on them and that’s wrong.
That rule is way too oversimplified to be useful. It’s true in some circumstances, and completely wrong in others — and completely useless at helping you to understand when it is and isn’t ok to contradict people.
The truth about social skills is that all rules are approximations at best. And often, as in this case, rules taught in social skills classes are completely useless and misleading.
Learning to be good at social interactions isn’t a matter of Learning the Rules; it’s a matter of learning to develop your judgement. Approximations and rules of thumb can help with this. They can’t replace the need to think for yourself and rely on your own judgement.
Social skills classes often teach people really destructive things about themselves and about social interaction. Here’s one way that can happen:
- They tell you that autism (or whatever else) is preventing you from understanding social situations
- They tell you that there are rules and that everyone else knows the rules naturally
- They give you some simplistic rules and tell you to always follow them
- The rules might sometimes be plausible-sounding or half-truths
- Following the simplistic rules does not actually get the results they claim it does (because life is more complicated than that)
- This can be really confusing
- If you express this confusion to them, or say that it isn’t working, they attribute it to your autism and tell you to try harder or trust the process or something
- They sometimes say this in a harsh way, they sometimes say it in a gentle or encouraging way. That difference is mostly aesthetic.
- Either way, it amounts to the same pressure to believe them unconditionally and stop thinking for yourself
I suspect that something like that is going on here. The rule itself is useless. There’s no way to use it to tell whether or not it’s a good idea to explain your reasoning to someone you disagree with.
But it sounds just-plausible-enough to fuel self doubt, because there are some situations in which it really is mean to explain things to someone. (An example that’s been circulating on Tumblr recently: It’s ok to dislike Minions. It’s not ok to hassle kids about liking Minions or try to convince them that it’s bad and they shouldn’t like it.)
It can be hard to remember that these tiny kernels of truth aren’t actually meaningful. But they’re not. Kernels of truth in a simplistic rule don’t make it useful — and they don’t make the people pushing simplistic rules right.
Also – people who are wrong aren’t always wrong about everything. They may have told you some things that were true. They may have told you some true things that you didn’t know. And they may have told you some true things that you *still* don’t know. That doesn’t mean that their overall approach was ok, and it doesn’t mean you should trust them or doubt yourself.
I think, push come to shove, you have to think for yourself and develop your own judgement about these things. And sometimes that will mean that you make social mistakes — but they will be *your* social mistakes, and you will learn from them. It’s ok for autistic people to make social mistakes. Everyone has to learn this stuff, not just us.
tl;dr Social skills groups can really undermine your ability to trust your own judgement. They give you simplistic rules that are impossible to follow, then blame you when it doesn’t work. It’s not your fault if this happened to you, and it’s not your fault if you’re having trouble recovering.