Following Along – Listening to Others

Listening to other people’s stories is an important aspect of developing and maintaining healthy relationships with friends, family, peers, significant others, and the general community. However, struggling to listen to or being engaged in conservations/information outside of your areas of special interest is common for Asperger/Autistic individuals. When talking through this specific tendency with my best friend Rose, she informed me that she can see when I have disassociated from a conversation and my brain is “elsewhere.”

Since learning about and recognizing myself disassociating during conversations, I have put an extra effort into being mentally present during conversations that I don’t really care about with the people that I care for and want to continue having in my life. I’m hoping that as I continue practicing this skill it will get easier and I won’t have to continuously redirect my brain back to paying attention to the person speaking.

However, I was recently out of town for work and was sharing an Airbnb with a couple whom I thoroughly appreciate and hope to continue having in my life, however, at times it was beyond draining trying to pay attention and follow along with their stories. Too often there were side tangents, unnecessary details, a lack of necessary details, and/or unclear points to the stories being told. and by the end of the second day, I was exhausted.

I have also recognized that I actively avoid conversations (and sometimes even people) that are focused on topics I don’t find interesting. More than once I have physically left conversation circles once the conversation turns into a subject I deem uninteresting or unimportant. I also more readily recognize when I disassociate from conservations when physically leaving is not an option.

Prioritizing conversations and people that you deem interesting likely help to create a fulfilling life, unfortunately, it also likely creates one-sided relationships, increases confirmation biases, and minimizes your exposure to different perspectives, beliefs, and viewpoints. Therefore it is important to practice the skill of listening to people, conversations, and information that is outside of your special interests; though I find it equally important to learn to discern when expending this additional energy is beneficial (e.g., learning a new perspective or building a bond) and when it is unnecessary (i.e., someone you don’t have an interest in is rambling about something you don’t care about).

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