Non verbal communication

Non verbal communication-one of the areas of life that most people who are not on the spectrum take for granted. Most people without Aspergers/autism are blessed with the gift of being able to take in other people’s body language although I know that how well they can do this varies from person to person although, from what I have seen, even the ones who can’t do it that well can still do it better than someone on the spectrum although that’s just my personal opinion.

To me, body language and facial expressions are confusing and often overwhelming particularly in group situations. I have improved in this over the years-I have a wonderful app on my IPhone which lists the most common postures in body language and what the meaning behind them is. Unfortunately it’s not always feasible for me to whip out my IPhone and consult it in front of people particularly as people’s body language often changes from minute to minute so, by the time you have understood what one posture means, they are on to another one. I am always mystified as to how those who aren’t on the spectrum can take this in so easily and seemingly without much thought.

When I am talking one on one with somebody, particularly somebody who I am close to and trust, I find body language a lot less intimidating although no less confusing to understand. There is the well known statistic that 93% of all communication is non verbal with only 7% being through words. To me, and to a lot of other people with Aspergers that I know, the figures can be alternated. I rely almost solely on words as I find them a lot easier to understand than the nuances of non verbal communication. Trying to work out what someone’s body language is telling me is tiring and that’s without adding in facial expression which adds a whole other layer of complication. People’s facial expressions are confusing to me-there seems to be so much activity going on in the facial muscles that, often, these distract away from the topic being discussed. 

Then we come on to eye contact. Over the years, I have become pretty good at giving half decent eye contact as I know that a lot of people find it uncomfortable talking to someone who gives them none. When I am stressed or overly emotional in any way, though, this disappears. I think there is a fundamental difference between how people who aren’t on the spectrum view eye contact compared to how people on the spectrum tend to view it. To me, I understand that other people want me to give it in conversations because they are getting something from it in terms of non verbal communication but, personally, I don’t think it adds anything to the conversation and I get very little from it, presumably because I can’t read the messages within the eyes. It seems to be an unwritten code that I am struggling to decipher. I find, when I need to talk about something serious, the best way for me to express it is by closing my eyes so I have no visual stimuli at all to distract me from what I need to discuss.

Finally, my body often gives contradictory messages to my mood. I have been told before that I seem disinterested in a topic of conversation even when this is not the case. It seems that not only do I miss other people’s subtle nuances of non verbal communication but also that the messages my own non verbal communication is giving out are often misinterpreted too-this is why everything would be much easier if everyone relied solely on words. When I am excited about something, I swing my arms, jump up and down and clap but, other than this, I don’t really have any animated body language. This may make me an enigma to some but it’s just how I am.

I hope some of this made sense. I have one final thing to say-if you know someone with Aspergers and interact with them on a regular basis, please remember that they are trying to communicate the best they can. We may not have brilliant social skills but we do have a lot to offer when we do get going in a conversation.



4 Responses to Non verbal communication

  1. rhythmicsocks says:

    What is the iPhone app you use?

    • sjmarsh2013 says:

      It’s called Body Language and the icon is a black square with the words Body Language on it written in white. It’s free to use but there are a couple of paid for ones which go a bit more in depth, I think. The grammar isn’t always brilliant but, for the basics of Body Language, it’s a decent tool in my opinion. Hope this helps.

  2. rhythmicsocks says:

    Thanks! I found it and am having a look at it 🙂

  3. Pingback: KXW Blog

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