Taking the “Hell” Out of Hello.

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Making a good first impression can be a frustrating experience. One misstep can cause one to stand out in the worst of ways. So when is the best time to mention having a behavioral disorder?

Discussing with others the nature of your diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome does not have to be an awkward situation. A little preparation beforehand combined with tact is all it takes to keep the conversation in your favor.

This lesson is usually learned the hard way. I was once at a social gathering with fellow members of my church. The women were asking the men the usual questions of where they work and where they served their two-year missions. I was honorably excused from serving a mission due to being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. The woman who was asking me the usual questions followed my explanation of missing out on a mission with, “Asperger’s? What’s that?” I didn’t know how to explain it properly so I simply stated it as being a form of autism. The conversation ended right there and then.

I’ve learned from my experiences and worked hard to prevent the past from repeating itself. My hope is you will take my tips to heart.

1. Silence is golden.

You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. In fact, most of the time you can get away with not mentioning mental conditions in conversation. It is rare to hear people specifically requesting to know whether you’ve been diagnosed with a behavioral disorder. Most people don’t want to know about things like that. It is up to you to decide whether they need to know.

2. Be honest.

Let’s say you choose to tell someone about being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. The nature of the circumstances will determine the amount of detail you should go into. If you’re discussing this with a potential love interest, then you’ll want to describe how Asperger’s affects you personally. If you’re in a room of casual acquaintances, then you can simply use the textbook definition to satisfy any curiosity. People usually won’t probe for more information, but you are welcome to respond with humor if you don’t feel like carrying the conversation any longer than necessary. A woman once asked me if I considered Asperger’s a major struggle in my life. I said, “Not really. It’s mostly everyone else’s problem.”

The next time your diagnosis comes up in conversation, it helps to see it as an opportunity instead of a trial. A lot of good is accomplished by being open about your condition. It helps other people to understand you better and shows you are confident in who you are. And you may just find yourself on the other end of the conversation one day, listening to someone explain to you their diagnosis. You should make it easy on them. Good first impressions are hard to pull off.

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