By Dan Coulter
If you have Asperger Syndrome, do you find yourself arguing a lot?
If your arguments usually lead to raised voices and hard feelings, it's possible some negative Asperger tendencies are taking over your interactions. Perhaps you feel you have to convince the other person that you're right. YOU HAVE TO. If, in such moments, you can't see any other option, your intellect is being hijacked by your emotions. Don't like being hijacked? You may be able to use your Asperger intellect to take back control.
First, let's analyze what's happening, and apply Asperger logic to substitute winning strategies for the ones that aren't working for you.
QUESTION ONE: What does it mean to argue?
We usually think of an argument as a conversation when two or more people disagree on something and each tries to get the other(s) to accept that he or she is right. Your side in an argument can be called your position.
There are basically two kinds of arguments, fact based and opinion based. People with Asperger Syndrome sometimes have problems telling the difference. Positions in fact based arguments can be proven right or wrong. Positions in opinion based arguments can't.
Fact based position: Harrison Ford played Han Solo in the Star Wars movies. Opinion based position: Star Trek was a better franchise than Star Wars.
You can prove Harrison Ford played Han Solo with a quick Google search. Which is the better franchise depends on a person's taste. There's a Latin phrase about opinion based arguments: “De gustibus non est disputandum.” It translates as "In matters of taste, there can be no disputes.” In today's terms, it means you can't win an argument based on opinions. If your favorite dessert is apple pie, that doesn't make the person who prefers chocolate cake wrong.
STRATEGY ONE: Before you argue a position, consider whether you're talking about fact or opinion. If you're talking about facts, be ready to quote sources that prove you're right. If you're talking about opinion, forget about convincing others you're right. State your preference without implying everyone should agree with you. One way to do this is to ask a question. For example, “I like Star Trek more than Star Wars. Do you like one more than the other?” Listen to the answer before you share your thoughts. This question could start a conversation where two people describe what they like, instead of arguing about who is right.
QUESTION TWO: Is an argument necessary or desirable?
Some arguments are unnecessary or undesirable, but you may feel compelled to start them anyway. For example, someone standing next to you in a theater line says something you don't agree with, or states a fact you know to be wrong. Whether you hear a fact or opinion-based statement, others may not appreciate you breaking into their conversation. They may think you're rude and tell you to mind your own business. Or they may ignore you. They might even insult you.
I see a solution in one of my favorite movie quotes. “War Games” is about a talking military supercomputer that thinks a simulation is real, takes control of the USA's nuclear missiles, and has the ability to start a global thermonuclear war. After running all the probable scenarios, the supercomputer decides not to launch any missiles, determining there could be no winner in such a war. The computer concludes, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
STRATEGY TWO: Pick your arguments and decide whether to keep your mouth shut. You may need to resist the urge to enter other people's conversations. Soak yourself in the concept that you don't have to correct every fact or opinion you hear that you don't agree with. It's not your job to police what others say, including your classmates and your family. You also may find it's better not to argue in some of your own conversations, even when you're convinced you're right. It not losing the argument to let your sister have the last word, it's a tactic. What good is it to win an argument with your mom (in your head, at least) if you still get grounded? The expression, “Silence is Golden” was coined by survivors who learned this lesson. Sometimes, the best thing you can say is nothing.
QUESTION THREE: How can I get people to listen to my positions?
No one likes to be corrected. It tends to make us feel bad. If someone acts like they think they're smarter than us when they correct us, it can make us feel unwilling to accept what they're saying. Remembering how you feel when you're corrected can help you treat others the way you'd like to be treated.
STRATEGY THREE: When you're in a conversation, show respect for the other person. First, be sure you listen to the other person and try to understand what they're saying. If you want to correct something that is not accurate, act as if you're providing information they just haven't heard yet. It's also smart to cite a solid source, so it's like the source is doing the correcting. If someone told you that a national discount chain was going to sell HDTVs for $59.00 this weekend, you could say, “I heard that too, but then I saw on CNN that the story was a hoax started by a fake news site. You can see the video on CNN.com.”
If you show respect in an argument, it's more likely to stay a friendly discussion than become a heated exchange. You'll also have a much better chance of getting someone to agree with you. And – you won't have eat crow in the future if someone presents evidence that reveals you're wrong about something. (It can happen.)
Think through these strategies and how they might have helped you in the past. Prepare yourself to recognize when your emotions are trying to take over your mouth. Your emotions think every argument has a winner and a loser. Your intellect can see that you only win if you reach an agreement.
And reaching agreement is the best way to win an Asperger argument.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author of 13 videos about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including "Manners for the Real World: Basic Social Skills." Dan's videos are available as DVDs and downloads. You can find more articles and information on Dan's website: www.coultervideo.com.
Copyright Dan Coulter 2016 Used by Permission All Rights Reserved