walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Conversational Dynamics: When Error Correction Degenerates

I have social communication problems (<-- understatement). Here are two, I'll give the simple and (I believe) unfixable one first, and the more complex and possibly mitigatable one second.

In the first instance, I am telling a story that is ABOUT ME. I am not using "you" as a generic pronoun. I am not thinking about whether the person I am telling the story to might have at some point in their past had a similar story, or if I did, I assume that my conversational partner has basically made whatever peace they might need to make with their story and can thus better understand mind and maybe make sympathetic noises, laugh with a bit of dark humor, perhaps give some helpful advice on how to deal with the situation, etc. Instead -- this doesn't happen all the time, and I really suck at predicting when it does happen -- the person connects whatever I am saying to something that happened to them in the past that they very much HAVE NOT made peace with, and the next thing I know, they are having a powerful emotional reaction to those events gone by, which I actually don't know anything about because it's sort of like I was talking about me and a movie started in front of their eyes and I've been completely forgotten. Very disorienting. I don't think it's something I can fix, altho when I notice it happening, I do try my best to make sympathetic noises, get them to talk through whatever it was hijacked the conversation, etc. etc. You know, be a supportive friend stuff.

Here is the more complex and hopefully more amenable to improvement problem. I am telling a story. The person is periodically reflecting back to me what they heard or what they understand me to have said, or where they think I am going next in the story. But they get it wrong in a way that I think matters. So I make a little adjustment. And I continue with my story. Again, they reflect back. Again, distortion that matters to me. Again, I try to continue. Sometimes I stop, because I think, you know, they are not in a place where listening is possible for them. Maybe they need to do some talking instead. Sometimes I give up on the story, and try a different story. And then sometimes, it happens with that story, too. It is a very frustrating dynamic, and while I've had it happen on occasion with nearly everyone I've had long and interesting conversations with, it happens a lot more with some people than with other. Obviously, it isn't any fun listening to a story, making what one thinks is a relevant remark, and being corrected for it. Repeatedly. Other than, give up on the story, give up on telling any story to the person in question, I'm trying to figure out how to deal with the persistent misunderstanding problem. I _feel_ like there ought to be more things to try. But I'm not having a lot of luck with them. It may be that most people have the sense to abandon any conversational gambit which generates more than two irrelevant/distorted responses, and I just need to internalize that rule.
Tags: autism
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