I think it was just yesterday when I post about the interview with Malcolm Gladwell, the author of ‘Talking to strangers’, where he said that people are not very good at assessing when somebody is lying. I was a bit surprised with that, as I thought this only applies to autistics and now it looks like neurotypicals are not that much better. Although I would say, still, autistics are probably a little bit more gullible, especially when they are young.
However, sometimes it seems like it’s me who can work that out better. I’m thinking about a situation from a few years ago. I worked with a lady who loved telling everybody how great her life was, except of her daughter who was in a college trying to become hairdresser but constantly facing various issues. That lady loved taking photos of everything: new bag, new dress, new shoes, new wallpaper in her bedroom and even the steak she ordered in a restaurant. She would then be showing everybody those photos and waiting for compliments.
One day, before the weekend, she said her daughter will be taking part in hairdressing contest for students. As much as I was not interested in that lady’s bags and steaks, I thought all those hairstyles will be interesting to see. So after the weekend I asked her how her daughter did. Oh, she won! the lady proclaimed while throwing her hands up in the air. That’s really good – I said. Can I see the photos? Oh, photos? I didn’t take any – she answered and suddenly become interested in her work.
Shortly after that another lady joined us and asked the same question. She was given response full of excitement and lively gestures and become so absorbed in the conversation that she didn’t even ask about photos. And I thought, is it just me who sees that something doesn’t add up here? That is what makes me suspicious about what other people say. But I guess neurotypicals, or at least some of them, become so focused on social reciprocity that they can’t properly assess what is being said to them.
I had similar situation today: I requested a quote for a life coach on a comparison website, totally on a whim. I stated in my enquiry that I’m autistic and therefore the coach may need to adjust how they work.
Shortly after I had a lady calling me and she said her son has been diagnosed autistic ‘just now, at 22’. She then proceeded to telling me that if something changes in his environment, like possibly, they move a plant pot, he gets severe meltdowns. And I said, I’m sorry, this is not who I am at all.
And I thought, I’m this person who laughs hysterically when she talks about her psychiatric hospital stay, but I didn’t say that. Plant pot being moved doesn’t bother me at all.
She then continued talking about how she reads about autism quite a lot lately and also just living with her son all those years made her aware of how to communicate with us. She then continued to tell me about her coaching methods but she used long, complex and vague sentences – which is exactly what we find difficult to follow and understand.
And again, I thought, that is all strange, it doesn’t add up at all. I didn’t fully process why till after the phone call though: if her son had such strong traits it’s very strange that his autism wasn’t picked up much earlier. Either she’s lying and using her very limited understanding of the condition to get me to sign up or she’s a terrible mum. But if she’s terrible mum, that means she’s also a terrible life coach.
The other thing was that if her son was autistic, she should have known by now how not to talk to an autistic person. If she didn’t, that means she was very poor at communicating with people who are not like her. Which then meant she was terrible life coach. Alternatively she was lying.
So that is how I get to work out if people are telling the truth: face expression or tone of voice don’t have any impact on how I see the situation, it’s only facts that count.
But I guess, if someone is lying frequently, they’re probably quite good at controlling their body language anyway so possibly my method would work better with them? Even if it appears like I need a bit of time to collect all the data and make up my mind.