Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Social intelligence: Presumed versus assigned roles

At Social Thinking, Michelle Garcia Winner has written a perceptive essay about presumed versus assigned roles in social interactions.

“Too many of our clients are not appreciated for their raw intelligence, keen sense of humor and desire to help others and the companies they work for. Instead my clients are often considered offensive because we neurotypicals are fussy about how people talk to us.”

Winner speaks to the importance of developing awareness of our roles in social communication and adapting our communication skills to function in those roles. I appreciate her emphasis upon “tossing out the assumption that even our academically brightest clients know how to problem solve their social encounters and social snafus.”

At the same time — and I am not minimizing the importance of cultivating social awareness — I’d like to see an examination of the privilege enjoyed by “we neurotypicals.” Can their fussiness at how they are spoken to or their offense at social errors ever be to their detriment?

Can both sides of the social equation be willing to make concessions that advance greater understanding? Or must it be one-sided?

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