Monday, November 4, 2013

Autism Answer: Perception Please!

My husband was feeling a bit annoyed with the lady who sells him scratch tickets today. Interestingly, his concern was over the fact that when he asked for change, she insisted he say "please". He refused, explaining that he was not going to beg her to make his change, but promised that he would thank her for the kindness if she did. Interesting!

I have always taught our kids to say please when making a request, and also thank-you when said request was completed. Here in Texas I am surrounded by folks who say "M'am" often instead of please, and I find that kind of annoying. But when in Rome; and so I allow for the m'am, but teach to the please. 

When I asked my husband with genuine curiosity why being told to say please felt degrading to him (cause that's how he explained it) much of the reason had to do with just that, that he had been told. But a fair amount came down to a core belief that we never realized he had! That asking politely (with the m'am) is important, and thanking the person is also important, but that please was more of a pleading. To be done when begging.

Interesting! I hadn't ever really noticed that my hubby doesn't really use the word. And he hadn't noticed either. But after talking about it we realized that--though he is polite and asks for favors with kindness--he doesn't like please because it sounds and feels to him like begging. Well, I'll be! 

My husband is sixty-two years old, black, and broke. He's spent his life and grown-up in small town Texas, and what they say about rampant racism is, unfortunately, kinda true. Especially as he was growing up. So I can absolutely see how being told by this white woman to say please, could cause a knee jerk reaction. The gentleman before him hadn't said please, and likely the gentleman behind him wouldn't either. Not because they aren't polite, but because they seem to prefer "Sir" or "M'am"... and that's fine. 

Because of the autism in my life, I am very comfortable with conversations about assumptions and perceptions! My husband and I didn't argue for one minute about the importance of teaching the word please. Or of the possible pleading (or even degrading) nature he perceives in the word. My husband's realization that he avoids the word didn't mean that I had to teach our kids to avoid it. Or that he had to stop avoiding it. It meant that we had a surprising and meaningful conversation, one where we both learned a thing or two that would come in handy when engaging in the world. 

Living with autism has given me the opportunity to learn so many things! And this is one of my favorites!! We have no idea how we are perceived by others, we have no idea how others are hoping to be perceived (think about how often you get unwanted and uneducated advice from others, they probably are looking to be perceived as helpful!), and we aren't even always sure why WE do what we do!! But by interacting with the world and being willing to take advantage of those uncomfortable moments to discover who we are and why we make the choices we make, the world becomes a little easier to understand and a lot more interesting!!

So next time you find yourself annoyed with someone and how they are treating you, consider taking a minute to think about what's going on in your own mind, and then take some time to think about all the possible perceptions or ideas going on with the "annoying" person. And when possible, take the time to chat about it! 

Pretty please!!!! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!