I kept thinking about what problem it is that I have with that mini speech for today event and I realised that, like with probably everything, I classify verbal communication by features and this way public speaking really is to me like speaking to myself but with an audience added and if I keep practicing at home, that will only perpetuates this misconception further.
I also feel quite sad about the fact that in those very few resources I found online about public speaking for autistics there was quite a bit of attention given to how to alter our tone of voice to sound more interesting or how to adjust body language. I really do think that we should be allowed to talk in a way that feels comfortable to us and if the audience is there to listen, they probably can make that tiny bit of effort and just focus on the information we’re providing. That could actually be good exercise for neurotypicals and I don’t think expecting that is rude, is it? You know, I can get quite upset in situations when I see some autistics advocating that we should be allowed saying whatever comes to our minds without considering how it makes people feel – I really don’t agree with that. People should be understanding if we sometimes say things that sound inappropriate, but that is different than aiming to say inappropriate things only because it’s easier for us. However, body language and tone of voice are different things altogether – not having a body language is not going to hurt anyone’s feelings, is it? And yet, some authors seem to really focus on that.
I also realised what the difference is between answering questions about my life experience and giving a speech about it: answering questions is dynamic, I have to think and talk at the same time and also I have the understanding that if I don’t include a certain detail the other person needs, they will ask another questions, so my limited theory of mind is not really getting in the way.
While, when speaking in front of an audience about a chosen subject I don’t really have the understanding that audience doesn’t know what I didn’t include (lack of theory of mind) and what is wrong with standard advice on practising public speaking is that is focused on performing and, with the real problem not being addressed, it could cause me to skip the entire paragraph of my speech and not realising it till later.
For me practicing public speaking should be focused on me trying to dynamically assess the entire time if I conveyed the information accurately and gave people what they need to understand my point of view. I have no idea how to practice that though!
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