In a recent interview with Brian Williams, Jerry Seinfeld revealed he possessed an “alternate mindset,” in which social interactions are sometimes difficult. People with Asperger’s Syndrome, also known as “highly functioning autistics,” are recognized as excelling in routine, sometimes repetitive work, displaying a remarkable attention to detail, and for their ability to recall facts from long term memory.
In The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, Bissonnette suggests that “Aspies” congregate in professions which capitalize on their strengths – such as scientific research, academia, engineering, and computer programming. Their excellent logic/analytical skills can however be upended by social gaffes, or a lacuna in their development of everyday skills which “neurotypicals” take for granted. They sometimes engage in behaviors which strike others as awkward, stilted, clumsy, and in some cases uncivil.
Dfficulties Aspies have in managing their emotions may erupt in atypical anger – episodes they quickly forget, but which leave recipients feeling offended, exasperated, disrespected, and perplexed at what they consider inappropriate and out of proportion expressions. This quirk (coupled with their tendency to be to blunt, direct, rigid, resistant to change, and to “act impulsively, based on too little information”) could land them in the unemployment line, and in a milieu in which they find themselves with few friends. Despite their above average intelligence, the confluence of interactional faux pas may prove too much for associates and employers. Because they don’t easily read social cues (such as body language, tonality, and facial expression), they operate at a social disadvantage, and are often “shocked to hear that others consider them to be rude, insubordinate, or unhelpful.” Aspies are rewarded for being hard workers, and for knowing their jobs well – but not for their social finesse. Their speech isn’t strained through a filter of refined niceties.
- “They can also have trouble with the back-and-forth give and take of everyday conversation. This is where they revert to their habit of talking at people.”
- “Because they don’t always process their emotions well, they may be volatile with emotional meltdowns and episodes of anger.”
- “They can also value accuracy more than the idea of maintaining social harmony or keeping a conversation on its rails.”
Personality as a stylistic issue is a component of “inclusive diversity” which encompasses criteria beyond those of race, gender, physical ability, age, lifestyle, and national origin. An inclusionary approach suggests that training on the gamut of personality differences (e.g., Myers-Briggs, High Sensitive Personality, Big Five, and neurodiversity), along with communication that best suits each type may be beneficial to promote understanding – which in turn breeds empathy, and strategies for effectively dealing with a variety of workers. Because they don’t realize when they’re being “blunt and rude,” Bissonnette suggests firms may want to coach Aspies to preserve their talent pools.
Penelope Trunk (a self-proclaimed Aspie), acknowledges her own “weirdness” or quirky nature – and how she can unknowingly come across as mean despite her best intentions to the contrary. To Aspies, she states “You will always be difficult to deal with.” “Valuing differences in thought and perspective,” combined with inclusive, non-divisive training, and strategies for attaining (and retaining) the best possible result (from an intermix of people) may just do the best job at culling employee strengths. Otherwise, people may disparage or fear what they don’t understand, and simply recycle what did not need to be problematic in the first place.