Civility / Politeness in the ASD Community
Pretty big post for my second one, but some of the other posts I’ve been reading have prompted me to put this on my own blog. Most of this post is actually written in response to two other posts, in Flappiness’s blog: Silencing Ourselves: A Plea for Civility in the ASD Community; and Civility is Simple, not Simplistic: A Response. Check them out; they have some really good points.
So, without further ado:
Just because people disagree with what you think is no reason to throw civility out the door. And yes, when you’re civil, it’s a lot more likely that people will listen to you, and at least consider your point. If you call people names, etc., they’ll feel hurt, and they’ll ignore you and whatever you’re trying to say. Which can be quite damaging when you’ve got a good and / or important point to make.
But there’s another element to that in the ASD community.
Not all people with ASD are this way, but an awful lot of us are quite blunt and / or truthful, so much so that it’s one of the defining traits of ASD (not one that someone has to have to be diagnosed as such, but it’s one of the indicators that you / your child may be on the spectrum). If our parents can’t be civil to each other – even if it’s just online – how are we going to learn to be civil in our turn? (And believe you me, your children will find out. Even if it’s years later.)
I’m the oldest of four. None of my siblings have ASD (though one is bipolar, and one has episodes of clinical depression – which I also have – which we got from both sides of the family, genetically-speaking). My mother has always insisted on basic courtesy – “please”, “thank you”, etc. Even now, with her grandchildren (my nieces and nephew), she will prompt them if they forget to say their Ps and Qs (why is it referred to that way, anyway?). So we all grew up knowing that being polite was just a basic part of life.
[Edit Jan. 09/13]
(Told to me by my father, so may be apocryphal.) Apparently, “Mind your Ps and Qs” stands for “Mind your pints and quarts”, and was an admonition to bartenders in England to mind their manners and not shortchange their customers.
Politeness is a social “oil”, so to speak. It helps keep people from grinding against each other and damaging each other in social situations. I suspect that the politeness that was ingrained into me while I was growing up was part of the reason I didn’t have more trouble in social situations than I already do. People tend to think of me as quiet, and not very much into conversation (unless you get me started on one of my interests, of course), but they’ve never refused to have me join them. And I have the feeling a fair amount of that is because, noisy or quiet, I’m always polite. I hold doors open for people who are loaded up with packages, or who are elderly and / or using a walker of some type, etc. (Not everyone wants that, admittedly, but it’s just polite.) I’m willing to give my seat on a bus or subway to a pregnant woman, or to someone who looks like they need it, even though I too often need to be sitting down.
When you lose politeness and civility, the community breaks down. And that’s the last thing we want to have happen. We’re a community because we share experiences in common, and because we need the support. There’s no reason to split us apart because we happen to disagree and / or have different opinions on some topics. It’s all the more reason to remain civil (as mentioned above).
Just some thoughts that I felt were worth sharing with anyone who cares to read this. And also a plea for civility on this blog. People are perfectly welcome to disagree with any opinions I might present here; after all, there are people out there who think that Steven Harper is the greatest thing for Canada since John A. MacDonald, and then there’s me and others like me, who think that he’s destroying Canada and all Canada stands for. But as long as we can be civil to each other, that’s what’s most important.
[Edit: Feb. 28/13] Having read another blog post (a really good one) on the difficulties of civility and politeness (here), and how it affects the need for change, I thought that I would add an edit in here to qualify what I mean by “civil language”.
I do not mean “political correctness”. Quite frankly, I find PC language to be absolutely ridiculous. (I think that’s one way in which my own “blunt speaking” comes through.) Call a grave a grave. Call a corpse a corpse. That’s fine. PC-speak irritates me (though I will not mark a comment as spam or delete it if the poster uses PC language – I just won’t use it myself, and won’t delete comments for not using it). One the other hand, I don’t appreciate slurs and derogatory terms for people, and will delete those comments that address them to others. (Comments making remarks about the terms being used, but not by the commenter, do not fall under that latter category. Sometimes discussions about such slurs have to happen.)
I also understand that people get angry and frustrated, and as long as profanity is not too bad (which honestly depends on what I think of the individual post), I won’t delete it either. If you need to vent about something, or my post has brought up an issue for you, that’s fine – all I ask is that you do not address that profanity directly towards people. Situations and objects are fine.
What I define civil language and politeness to be involves the basic courtesy to recognize that everyone is human, and that they deserve the same treatment as you. If you’re frustrated by something and want to vent, fine – as long as your venting is not directed at someone. At a situation (even one that was instigated by someone, because those happen) is fine, no big deal. That happens all the time. Just – not at other people, please.
If you want to be blunt, that’s fine too – after all, see my pararaph above about bluntness and ASDers. And sometimes we can’t realize what effect our words might have on other people. So, to the people reading my blog, please recognize that as well, and realize that something we may have written might not have been directed at you.
Thank you. And thank you, Mike, for making me think about this. [/End Edit]