Tin Can Phone Line

I forget what it was about specifically, but my wife and I were driving Aspie Baby around in the van trying to get him to go to sleep and we were having a discussion. We were interpreting a passage of something, a list of conditions for something or other from a legal document.

Now at my job I read legal instruments/documents all day and have to interpret both their meaning and practical application. (No I’m not a lawyer or paralegal). So I have plenty of experience in this area and I knew I had a strong foundation to stand on and I knew that I knew what I was talking about.

My wife couldn’t see what I was talking about, nor could she bring herself to understand that the meaning behind the words could be different from the literal written word and what they seemed to say.

The argument went on, and I said well in this instance, it’s the interpretation of the court and/or judge that is going to make the deciding factor. Whatever the judge interprets it as meaning, will be the meaning, because unfortunately in our society, might makes right, and few people in this world are mightier than those men and women in black robes who sit behind their podiums and are given the power to determine what is right and what is wrong. (OK I’m a little opinionated in this area sue me).

My wife froze. She curled her knees into her chest (no mean feat while sitting in the passenger seat of a minivan), put her head to her knees and started rocking. She had an episode of voluntary mutism, where she couldn’t speak. Tears ran down her cheeks. She could only shake her or nod her head in answer to questions asked of her. I knew she wasn’t mad at me, but rather the injustice of the meaning behind my words. (But I still felt like crap, I just made my wife cry).

The document said this. It should mean this. But now I was telling her that the meaning rested entirely in how an outside party would interpret it. Well then how in the hell are other people supposed to be able to apply these words unilaterally across every situation? And how could they blame people who got the interpretation wrong when those people had no idea how a judge would interpret those words? It wasn’t fair.

I tried to look at it from her side. It made sense I suppose. But I had never questioned it like that before. And I knew that no matter what, in the end, the law is just something you have to try to obey and not break to the best of your ability. I never come close to a line where it might be up to someone elses interpretation to make a decision so it never mattered to me.

But my wife was frozen in the chair next to me. It boggled the mind. HOW could this have this effect?

As partners of Aspies, sometimes we have to ask ourselves; Are our partners getting it? Our words, the intention behind them? Can what we just said be interpreted any other way? Are they receiving the message we’re sending or is another all together different message being received?

Remember the game where a person gathered a host of people and started at one end of the room, whispered a message to them and had them whisper it to each other till they reached the other end of the room? By the time the message got across the room, it’s completely different than what was said originally.

Well this is no different. Every email, every text, every word we utter needs to be held up to a filter of will they get this? I’m NOT saying we have to treat them as 12 years olds and speak down to them. (Try that with my wife and see how long you last, I dare you). What I’m saying is when you are angry and you mutter a comment, can that comment do more damage than you think it ever could?

And to speak for the NT’s now…it can be very frustrating for us as well. Sometimes we can’t instantly understand how in the hell you got the message you did from the one we originally intended. It would never cross our minds that what we said or did could be interpreted any other way than the way we intended it. So no, we are not being deliberately insensitive and you may have to challenge yourself to stop and get further clarification of what we meant when we said/wrote something, because it may not be what you think it is.

I remember Jerry Seinfeld, in one of his stand up comedy routines said: “Men and women are never going to understand each other so I don’t even try. For example, I can’t understand how you can take boiling hot wax, pour it on your upper thighs, pull the hair out by it’s roots….and still be scared of a spider?!”

The point being that not being scared of the pain of getting a wax job and being scared of spiders makes no sense to him, the same way I’m betting some of you are saying that makes no sense, the two are not related or have anything to do with each other!

Remember we are both on opposite sides of something, seeing the same thing, but receiving different impressions of it.   But we are also supposed to be on each others side. So make sure your message is being received loud and clear, and make sure the message your hearing means what you think it does.

And remember one last thing everyone. No one can read anyone elses mind! So we don’t know that you didn’t receive the message we sent in the way we thought you would, and vice versa, they don’t know the meaning behind the message you sent!

Communication and patience. Remember we’re on the same side after all. Each others.

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