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Identifying Non-Literal Questions Right Away

Discussion in 'Friends, Family & Social Skills' started by Ihilani, Sep 5, 2019.

  1. Ihilani

    Ihilani New Member

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    I need help identifying non-literal questions right away. Please provide any pro-tips, insights, or general observations that may help.

    I am asking because I am having difficulty communicating with my boss. For example, he'll ask, "Why did you ..." But, he's really saying, "You messed up. Own up, apologize and fix this right now."

    I do not understand why someone would ask a direct question and be upset with a direct and literal response. I do not understand how/why I should understand what he means when he asks that question.

    So, I answer literally. "I did that because of ...." I can see that he's not happy with the thing I did and I'm happy to adjust, but I don't say that because he's not asking about my next steps and future actions directly.

    He says that everyone understands the actual meaning of his question and that anyone with a higher education has no excuse and my behavior is unprofessional and disrespectful.

    After much frustration and "arguing," as he puts it, we've discovered that to him, explaining my rationale means that I am saying that I think he's wrong, I've done everything perfectly, and I have no intention to own up to or apologize for anything.

    He's called me robotic, unemotional, lawyer-like, and condescending. It's difficult to ask for clarification because my questions are perceived as indictments and I can't seem to figure out what words I need to use to appease him. We seem to have the same goals: to move forward, be proactive, learn to think critically, etc. However, my not being able to see form his perspective right away is a problem to him.

    My lack of intuition in assessing what's actually being asked versus the actual words that are used is an ongoing issue for me and is severely and negatively impacting my work-life. I want to be able to "read between the lines" and have "common sense". Since this does not come naturally to me, I desire to learn tricks and memorize patterns and trends that will allow me to avoid issues and take the onus of these miscommunications off of my superiors.

    (Please note that I have not been diagnosed with and Autism Spectrum Disorder and have not pursued a diagnosis. I know very little about diagnosis and have no idea where I'd fall on the spectrum. I've come here because this is an issue that this community might be able to relate to and speak into and I am grateful for any assistance.)
     
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  2. Fridgemagnetman

    Fridgemagnetman I only have one V.I.P Member

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    Try ememes below.

    They have a different way of communicating that the reason why is nott really obvious to them.
    Which is why they cant understand when you explain.

    Understanding more why they do what they do helps.

    As you can frame each communication on their terms.

    Now sit and wait. There will loads of help arriving for the rest of the day :)
     
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  3. Kevin1968

    Kevin1968 Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I think you need to learn how to respond to those types of questions much like when responding to "How are you" the expected response is "Fine, how are you?" Not "I am..."

    But I'm terrible at these things too.

    Being good at your job helps because you then usually will get a bit of tolerance for being "quirky"
     
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  4. Brit

    Brit Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    NT here...

    Try using language or phrases to soften the blow of whatever you are trying to explain to him. This has an added effect of making your actions sound more humble. This is very important with many NT folks. e.g:

    Instead of saying I acted in such and such way because it was the correct/right/best way to do it....

    Say something that’s softer, like for example I acted in such and such way..in the hope of/with the intention of- achieving so and so.

    adding at the end... i hope this wasn’t overstepping/ acting out of hand...

    It sounds to me like he wants to make it clear that your are his subordinate, regardless of whether your work is good or not.
     
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  5. SDRSpark

    SDRSpark Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I don't think your communication issues are the issue here. I think his are. He sounds like a jerk, honestly. I don't know about the rest of your experiences working there, but if this is a pattern, I'd suggest looking for a new job.

    Brit gives good advice above.

    When I'm faced with something I screwed up, my response is generally something like "Oops...sorry about that!" then I explain what happened, if relevant. (This may not be pertinent to your situation. I don't deal with office politics much and most of my mistakes are paperwork related.)

    I've never been asked "Why did you do this?" and then had someone get mad because I didn't respond with groveling. That's not right. Don't let communication differences excuse asshole behavior.
     
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  6. BraidedPony

    BraidedPony Just Enjoying Survival V.I.P Member

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    I hate those "why did you...." questions. I aways want to give a step by step list of my thinking process that lead to my actions...
    But I probably came off as defensive or condescending, looking back. I would be wondering why they would question my results or why ask when they won't understand what I did anyway.
    Would asking, "what do you mean?" help him to be more specific about what the heck he wants to know?
    I really don't know, I saved my money and retired early because i got tired of dealing with people.
     
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  7. Pats

    Pats Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I had a boss once ask me how I felt about her. Naturally I thought she was trying to improve herself related to her job so I answered honestly. I didn't make it personal, just told her I didn't like how she has come in and changed this or that when what we were doing was working for us and her changes had turned it into a mess. She cried and I was questioned why did I make her cry. My response was "She asked, I answered."
    Then I've had people get mad because I would not answer a personal question. Once someone cussed me out because when they asked who my favorite star was I said I don't think I have one. So I think, dealing with people, there is no correct way, unless they're just looking for lies. Maybe ask what answer they are looking for. Um, maybe I shouldn't try to give advice on this subject, I tend to be … um … well, I'll just say I've never been a kiss up that most bosses want.
     
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  8. GadAbout

    GadAbout Well-Known Member

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    Don't assume boss saying "why did you" is not meant literally. He may want to understand your thought processes in acting as you do. That doesn't mean he will like your answers, but he is actually demonstrating a social skill in the way he asks the question.

    That said, you need to demonstrate a social skill of your own: deference. There is no right/wrong in these discussions, there is instead a power imbalance, and you would do well to remember it and act accordingly.
     
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  9. Ihilani

    Ihilani New Member

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    That's a great insight. It hadn't occurred to me at all that that's what he's wanting, but I can see how that explains his actions and helps me to see why my actions were not taken well. Thanks so much!
     
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  10. Progster

    Progster Gone sideways to the sun V.I.P Member

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    Perhaps he hasn't learned yet to ask the right questions to get the desired response. He needs to modify his communication to get the best out of you. And that means being up front about his feedback or constructive criticism.

    Don't assume that because he's you boss, that his communication skills are superior... some people have poor communication skills.

    I have to communicate with students daily for my work, and if I ask a question and get a response that doesn't answer my question, it doesn't automatically mean that the student gave a wrong answer, it may mean that I asked the wrong question, and I need to rephrase my question, or ask a slighly different question to get my answer.
     
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  11. Ihilani

    Ihilani New Member

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    I agree that his intentions are good, he's open to a more direct/literal response and he's demonstrating social skills, but it has become clear that he's not looking to understand my thought process and admitted that he came into the conversation already decided that I was wrong and wanted me to admit that.

    I appear to have have very little sense of deference, but desire to improve my abilities. Looking for how there might be a "power imbalance" is helpful in assessing what words might be best to use and why something I said was seen as "disrespectful" or "argumentative".

    Thank you for your response.
     
  12. Ihilani

    Ihilani New Member

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    Thank you for sharing. Your response makes me feel less alone in that it's easier to see that maybe I'm not wrong, but rather, this is just a difference in how we think and see.

    It often feels like other are asking for lies, but in trusting that maybe the intentions of others is honesty, I hope that we can find ways to answer acceptably while maintaining our sense of integrity.
     
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  13. Nervous Rex

    Nervous Rex High-functioning autistic V.I.P Member

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    1) Before answering a question, I sometimes have to stop and ask myself, "Why are they asking this?" - like, what's their goal in asking? If I can't easily see their goal, I may have to ask some clarifying questions, like "Are you asking because you like how I did that, or because you want to know how I came up with that approach?"

    2) I work hard to put a friendly, disarming tone to my voice. It goes a long way toward defusing and de-escalating things.
     
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  14. Fino

    Fino Alex V.I.P Member

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    Maybe if you don't answer right away and leave a pause and see if they just keep talking or something like that. That's saved me from answering things I shouldn't have plenty of times.
     
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  15. Kalinychta

    Kalinychta Well-Known Member

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    I think your boss is just a jerk, to be honest. If my boss asked me why I made an error, he WOULD be truly asking me why. I’d tell him why, and then he would respectfully explain the error to me so that I didn’t repeat it. That’s what a good boss would do. It might be time for you to try to leave your job and go work for someone who isn’t a surly despot.
     
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