Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than hearing about someone else’s bad news. Most normal people have trouble with this also, but my reasons are particularly aspie-ish. It’s not the bad news itself that bothers me, it’s the fact that I have no idea how I’m supposed to react.
Probably not the best reaction.
I really don’t know what to say. I don’t want to brush the bombshell off like it’s nothing, but I also don’t want to dwell on the negatives and reinforce just how bad everything sucks for this person. So most of the time I just get socially paralyzed and try not to react at all, which makes me look wooden and heartless. The best case scenario is when someone else besides me is involved in the conversation, because then I can pretend I wasn’t listening and didn’t hear what’s going on.
Being oblivious comes off better than being rude.
Then, sometimes my Aspergers kicks in and I just don’t seem to care. It’s horrible to say, but it’s true – often, my first reaction is to figure out if and how the news will affect me. I may be self centered, but that comes with the Aspie territory.
A coworker of mine is currently going through some health problems. As he was explaining the situation to the rest of the staff on the shift, I found myself desperately trying to avoid eye contact, pretending to be heavily involved in my work. What am I supposed to say? I can’t console anybody. I’ll do more harm than good. The situation may involve him missing some time. My thoughts? “Man, this is going to make us short handed. We are going to have to bust some ass to get the work done.” I’m not joking; this guy is gravely ill, and I’m worried about how my work flow is going to change.
What the hell? What is wrong with me?
It gets worse – when he actually started to miss time, I started to get a little pissed off because work was so busy. I was resenting the guy because he had the nerve to get cancer and require chemotherapy sessions.
“My bad. I’ll be back to work on Monday.”
At least I’m self-aware enough to realize how disturbed and callous this is. That’s why I figure it’s better to keep my mouth shut than to tell him what’s on my mind. Still, I can’t deny that my first thoughts are how the situation affects me, as if that is the most important thing. But that’s the reality of having Aspergers – the whole world revolves around you, even when it doesn’t.