Its been an interesting couple of weeks since I last posted. A number of events have impacted upon me and there seems to be the common thread of them all relating to inter-personal issues that have benefited from me not automatically assuming things from my perspective.
The first was LISTENING to a colleague about an area we are both working on. Yes, I know I have posted about listening before, but I was conscious afterwards about how hard I had listened, and the benefits of doing so, which made me think: do I still need to listen – really listen more?
The second lesson was asking the same colleague for assistance. He is working on a similar project to me and provided me with some really invaluable insight which helped me advance my work.
Over the years I have been somewhat reticent about asking for assistance and have viewed it as a sign of weakness not strength. But providing it is not a repeat request I have found that colleagues admire – rather than – criticize requests for support and it was a reminder of the benefit of doing so.
I also made further proactive attempts this week to build bridges with a customer who had expressed dissatisfaction previously with the product we had initially supplied him with. His complaints weren’t negative; they were constructive and largely justified.
I had reached out to him previously and mollified the issue. By going back this week and offering him a small extra I have cemented the relationship. This approach was contrary to what I may have done a few years back: taken criticism as personal and not sought to build bridges.
Last week I also got a colleague to provide me with some feedback on my performance in a particular area. I have found that requesting feedback is extremely useful and can be the source of real performance improvement.
I have found receiving feedback difficult in the past and have often received it defensively. I think I have viewed it as criticism or a result of a perception of my “differentness” that is part of my Asperger.
Feedback is good for the above reasons, but also for another: it shows people that you are open to them and able to incorporate their ideas and values. It helps get them on your side.
Finally, I had a long conversation this morning in the office with a colleague that I had previously regarded as aloof and distant, despite me always saying hello to him.
He initiated the conversation about an issue that affected us both and it was the first time that I had really had a proper conversation with him. He was most amenable and – unlike I had perceived before – very friendly.
There is a chapter in my book “Managing with Asperger Syndrome” entitled “If You Meet That Person”. It is about a type of individual – distant, unfriendly, aggressive, bullying – that I believe a person with Asperger Syndrome is unable to form a relationship and work with.
The chapter caused quite a bit of consternation with the publisher Jessica Kingsley who thought I was missing the point about the root of the problem.
To explain this she cited an example of a young child with autism who was happy, friendly and open when a person greeted them in a friendly manner. When the opposite occurred, i.e. that person was cold, critical or confrontational, the child reacted in a hostile fashion prematurely or unnecessarily. In other words, it is the presumption about the other person, and their reaction to them, that exacerbates the problem. It is not about having Asperger per se.
I had always regarded the colleague that I spoke to as aloof and unco-operative; the reality has proven to be the opposite! The lesson: don’t assume and remain open to people so as not to trigger disquiet on their part. Reach out………
I’m going away now for Christmas so may not be able to post until the New Year. Best wishes for the festive period and I look forward to chatting to everyone in 2016!